Today the Institute for Supply Management published its latest Non-Manufacturing Report. The headline NMI Composite Index is at 56.9 percent, up fractionally from last month's 56.7 percent. Today's number came in above the Investing.com forecast of 56.5.
Here is the report summary:
"The NMI® registered 56.9 percent in February, 0.2 percentage point higher than the January reading of 56.7 percent. This represents continued growth in the non-manufacturing sector. The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index decreased to 59.4 percent, which is 2.1 percentage points lower than the January reading of 61.5 percent, reflecting growth for the 67th consecutive month at a slower rate. The New Orders Index registered 56.7 percent, 2.8 percentage points lower than the reading of 59.5 percent registered in January. The Employment Index increased 4.8 percentage points to 56.4 percent from the January reading of 51.6 percent and indicates growth for the 12th consecutive month. The Prices Index increased 4.2 percentage points from the January reading of 45.5 percent to 49.7 percent, indicating prices contracted in February for the third consecutive month. According to the NMI®, 14 non-manufacturing industries reported growth in February. Comments from respondents have increased in regards to the affects of the reduction in fuel costs and the impact of the West Coast port labor issues on the continuity of supply. Overall, supply managers feel mostly positive about the direction of the economy."
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 59.4 percent is down from 61.5 the previous month.
For a diffusion index, this can be an extremely volatile indicator. Thus I've added a three-month moving average to assist us in visualizing the short-term trends.
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.