The Institute of Supply Management (ISM) has now released the April Non-Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), also known as the ISM Services PMI. The headline Composite Index is at 56.8 percent, down 2.0 from 58.8 last month. Today's number came in below the forecast of 58.1 percent.

Here is the report summary:

"The NMI® registered 56.8 percent, which is 2 percentage points lower than the March reading of 58.8 percent. This represents continued growth in the non-manufacturing sector at a slower rate. The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index decreased to 59.1 percent, 1.5 percentage points lower than the March reading of 60.6 percent, reflecting growth for the 105th consecutive month, at a slower rate in April. The New Orders Index registered 60 percent, 0.5 percentage point higher than the reading of 59.5 percent in March. The Employment Index decreased 3 percentage points in April to 53.6 percent from the March reading of 56.6 percent. The Prices Index increased by 0.3 percentage point from the March reading of 61.5 percent to 61.8 percent, indicating that prices increased in April for the 26th consecutive month. According to the NMI®, all 18 non-manufacturing industries reported growth. There was a slowing in the rate of growth that was mostly attributed to the decline in the Employment and Supplier Deliveries indexes. The respondents have expressed concern regarding the uncertainty about tariffs and the effect on the cost of goods. Overall, the respondents remain positive about business conditions and the economy." [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 59.1 percent is down 1.5 from a seasonally adjusted 60.6 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 visualize 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.

We will publish our next ISM Non-Manufacturing report on June 5.

Read more updates by Jill Mislinksi