ISM Manufacturing Index: Up Fractionally in May

Today the Institute for Supply Management published its monthly Manufacturing Report for May. The latest headline Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) was 54.9 percent, a marginal increase of 0.1 percent from 54.8 the previous month. Today's headline number was above the Investing.com forecast of 52.5 percent.

Here is the key analysis from the report:

"The May PMI® registered 54.9 percent, an increase of 0.1 percentage point from the April reading of 54.8 percent. The New Orders Index registered 59.5 percent, an increase of 2 percentage points from the April reading of 57.5 percent. The Production Index registered 57.1 percent, a 1.5 percentage points decrease compared to the April reading of 58.6 percent. The Employment Index registered 53.5 percent, an increase of 1.5 percentage points from the April reading of 52 percent. The Inventories Index registered 51.5 percent, an increase of 0.5 percentage point from the April reading of 51 percent. The Prices Index registered 60.5 percent in May, a decrease of 8 percentage points from the April reading of 68.5 percent, indicating higher raw materials prices for the 15th consecutive month, but at a noticeably slower rate of increase in May compared with April. Comments from the panel generally reflect stable to growing business conditions, with new orders, employment and inventories of raw materials all growing in May compared to April. The slowing of pricing pressure, especially in basic commodities, should have a positive impact on margins and buying policies as this moderation moves up the value chain." [source]

Here is the table of PMI components.

The ISM Manufacturing Index should be viewed with a bit of skepticism for various reasons, which are essentially captured in a previous Briefing.com "Big Picture" comment on this economic indicator.

This [the ISM Manufacturing Index] is a highly overrated index. It is merely a survey of purchasing managers. It is a diffusion index, which means that it reflects the number of people saying conditions are better compared to the number saying conditions are worse. It does not weight for size of the firm, or for the degree of better/worse. It can therefore underestimate conditions if there is a great deal of strength in a few firms. The data have thus not been either a good forecasting tool or a good read on current conditions during this business cycle. It must be recognized that the index is not hard data of any kind, but simply a survey that provides broad indications of trends.

The chart below shows the Manufacturing Composite series, which stretches back to 1948. The eleven recessions during this time frame are indicated along with the index value the month before the recession starts.

ISM Manufacturing

For a diffusion index, the latest reading of 54.9 is its ninth consecutive month of expansion. What sort of correlation does that have with the months before the start of recessions? Check out the red dots in the chart above.

How revealing is today's 0.1 point change from last month? There are 833 monthly data points in this series. The absolute average month-to-month point change is 2.0 points, and the median change is 1.5 points.