ISM Non-Manufacturing: Slower, But Continued Growth in March

The Institute of Supply Management (ISM) has now released the March Non-Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), also known as the ISM Services PMI. The headline Composite Index is at 55.2 percent, down 2.4 from 57.6 last month. Today's number came in below the Investing.com forecast of 57.0 percent.

Here is the report summary:

"The NMI® registered 55.2 percent, which is 2.4 percentage points lower than the February reading of 57.6 percent. This represents continued growth in the non-manufacturing sector at a slower rate. The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index decreased to 58.9 percent, 4.7 percentage points lower than the February reading of 63.6 percent, reflecting growth for the 92nd consecutive month, at a slower rate in March. The New Orders Index registered 58.9 percent, 2.3 percentage points lower than the reading of 61.2 percent in February. The Employment Index decreased 3.6 percentage points in March to 51.6 percent from the February reading of 55.2 percent. The Prices Index decreased 4.2 percentage points from the February reading of 57.7 percent to 53.5 percent, indicating prices increased for the 12th consecutive month, at a slower rate in March. According to the NMI®, 15 non-manufacturing industries reported growth in March. The sector continues to reflect growth; however, the rate of growth has declined since last month. The majority of respondents’ comments indicate a positive outlook on business conditions and the overall economy. There were several comments about the uncertainty of future government policies on health care, trade and immigration, and the potential impact on business." [Source]

Unlike its much older kin, the ISM Manufacturing Series, 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.

The more interesting and useful subcomponent is the Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index. The latest data point at 58.9 percent is down 4.7 percent from a seasonally adjusted 63.6 the previous month.

ISM Non-Manufacturing

For a diffusion index, this can be an extremely volatile indicator, hence the addition of a six-month moving average to help us visualizing the short-term trends.

Theoretically, this indicator should become more useful as the time frame 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 our intention to keep this series on the radar.

Here is a table showing the trend in the underlying components.

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