ISM Manufacturing Index: Continued Expansion in August

Today the Institute for Supply Management published its monthly Manufacturing Report for August. The latest headline Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) was 58.8 percent, an increase of 2.5 percent from 56.3 the previous month. Today's headline number was above the Investing.com forecast of 56.5 percent.

Here is the key analysis from the report:

"The August PMI® registered 58.8 percent, an increase of 2.5 percentage points from the July reading of 56.3 percent. The New Orders Index registered 60.3 percent, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point from the July reading of 60.4 percent. The Production Index registered 61 percent, a 0.4 percentage point increase compared to the July reading of 60.6 percent. The Employment Index registered 59.9 percent, an increase of 4.7 percentage points from the July reading of 55.2 percent. The Supplier Deliveries Index registered 57.1 percent, a 1.7 percentage point increase from the July reading of 55.4 percent. The Inventories Index registered 55.5 percent, an increase of 5.5 percentage points from the July reading of 50 percent. The Prices Index registered 62 percent in August, the same reading as July, indicating higher raw materials’ prices for the 18th consecutive month. Comments from the panel reflect expanding business conditions, with new orders, production, employment, backlog and exports all growing in August, as well as supplier deliveries slowing (improving) and inventories increasing during the period. The Customers’ Inventories Index experienced a sharp decline in August compared to July."[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 58.8 is its twelfth 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 2.5 point change from last month? There are 836 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.