ISM Non-Manufacturing: Continued Growth in November

December 3, 2014

by Doug Short

Today the Institute for Supply Management published its latest Non-Manufacturing Report. The headline NMI Composite Index is at 59.3 percent, up from last month's 57.1 percent. Today's number came in above the forecast of 57.5.

Here is the report summary:

"The NMI® registered 59.3 percent in November, 2.2 percentage points higher than the October reading of 57.1 percent. This represents continued growth in the non-manufacturing sector. The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index increased to 64.4 percent, which is 4.4 percentage points higher than the October reading of 60 percent, reflecting growth for the 64th consecutive month at a faster rate. The New Orders Index registered 61.4 percent, 2.3 percentage points higher than the reading of 59.1 percent registered in October. The Employment Index decreased 2.9 percentage points to 56.7 percent from the October reading of 59.6 percent and indicates growth for the ninth consecutive month. The Prices Index increased 2.3 percentage points from the October reading of 52.1 percent to 54.4 percent, indicating prices increased at a faster rate in November when compared to October. According to the NMI®, 14 non-manufacturing industries reported growth in November. Comments from the majority of respondents indicate that business conditions are on track for continued growth. The respondents have also stated that there is some strain on capacity due to the month-over-month increase in activity."

Like its much older kin, the ISM Manufacturing Series, I have been reluctant to focus on this collection of diffusion indexes. For one thing, there is relatively little history for ISM's Non-Manufacturing data, especially for the headline Composite Index, which dates from 2008. The chart below shows Non-Manufacturing Composite. We have only a single recession to gauge is behavior as a business cycle indicator.

In my view, the more interesting and useful subcomponent is the Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index. The latest data point at 60.0 percent is a 2.9 decline from the previous month.

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For a diffusion index, this can be an extremely volatile indicator. Thus I've added a six-month moving average to assist us in visualizing the trend, which has been relatively range bound for the past two years, and we're currently at the bottom of the range.

Theoretically, I believe, this indicator will become more useful as the timeframe of its coverage expands. Manufacturing may be a more sensitive barometer than Non-Manufacturing activity, but we are increasingly a services-oriented economy, which explains my intention to keep this series on the radar.

Here is a table showing trend in the underlying components.

Here is a link to my coverage of the latest ISM Manufacturing report.

Note : I use the FRED USRECP series (Peak through the Period preceding the Trough) to highlight the recessions in the charts above. For example, the NBER dates the last cycle peak as December 2007, the trough as June 2009 and the duration as 18 months. The USRECP series thus flags December 2007 as the start of the recession and May 2009 as the last month of the recession, giving us the 18-month duration. The dot for the last recession in the charts above are thus for November 2007. The "Peak through the Period preceding the Trough" series is the one FRED uses in its monthly charts, as illustrated here.

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