The Farce Continues: ISM Still Has No Idea Why Its Computers Malfunctioned, And Much More...

Tyler Durden's picture

We are still in shock by yesterday's epic Snafu involving ISM manufacturing data was extensively documented (here, here, here and here). For those who missed it, the Institute of Supply Management somehow prepared an entire report, press release and prepared remarks by its chair Brad Holcombe, which minutes after its official, and extensively vetted release, turned out to be based on... completely flawed numbers. The reason: the ISM has somehow applied erroneous seasonal adjustments, supposedly adjusting unadjusted May data using April adjustment factors (we do hope the ISM makes a habit of disclosing to the public what all its data looks like, not just its seasonally-adjusted numbers).

As a result the ISM was forced to selectively adjust a subset of the final numbers, higher of course, not once but twice: after all we are at a very sensitive tapering time for the economy when every single data point simply has to boost confidence at all costs that the economy can sustain itself even with a decline in the Fed's liquiity injection and so nothing can possibly be allowed to show a growth slowdown.

The reason we bring it up is not because tomorrow the ISM is set to release its second for the week report, this time detailing the US non-manufacturing sector (fear not: it will be a smashing success, or else it too will promptly be adjusted higher), which following yesterday's farceworks (sic) is now a complete joke as far as "credible" surveys are concerned, but because the story simply refuses to go away.

As Bloomberg reports, the ISM said it will manually vet all data because it hasn’t identified why its computer software introduced an error into yesterday’s May manufacturing index. That's right: a day after its unprecedented humiliation, the ISM still has no idea how its data was "glitched" by a computer (note the use of the passive voice: there never is an actual person responsible for such glaring errors).

It gets better:

Analysts at the Tempe, Arizona-based purchasing managers association will verify the figures against what the computer spits out, Kristina Cahill, a spokeswoman for ISM said today. A glitch yesterday caused its manufacturing index to drop. That was later corrected to show factories expanded last month at the fastest pace of the year.


“We definitely are very serious about making sure that doesn’t happen again,” said Cahill, who added that the group received “a number of inquiries” about yesterday’s botched manufacturing report. “We’re incredibly concerned about credibility, and that’s why we’re taking these steps.”

You mean that an organization that is "incredibly concerned about credibility" never verified the figures that a computer "spits out" previously? As in nobody ever actually checks the numbers that go into the press release paragraph supposedly uttered by Brad Holcombe, who in addition to the quantitative data also lays out a qualitative assessment of the data?

As a reminder, this is what was released yesterday. Somehow this...



The report was issued today by Bradley J. Holcomb, CPSM, CPSD, chair of the Institute for Supply Management® (ISM®) Manufacturing Business Survey Committee. "The May PMI® registered 53.2 percent, a decrease of 1.7 percentage points from April's reading of 54.9 percent, indicating expansion in manufacturing for the 12th consecutive month. The New Orders Index registered 53.3 percent, a decrease of 1.8 percentage points from the 55.1 percent reading in April, indicating growth in new orders for the 12th consecutive month. The Production Index registered 55.2 percent, 0.5 percentage point below the April reading of 55.7 percent. Employment grew for the 11th consecutive month, registering 51.9 percent, a decrease of 2.8 percentage points below April's reading of 54.7 percent. Comments from the panel reflect generally steady growth, but note some areas of concern regarding raw materials pricing and supply tightness and shortages."

... became this:

“We apologize for this error. We have recalculated and confirmed that the actual index indicates that the economy is accelerating,” said Bradley J. Holcomb, CPSM, CPSD, chair of the Institute for Supply Management® (ISM®) Manufacturing Business Survey Committee. “Our research team is analyzing our internal processes to ensure that this doesn’t happen again,” he added.


“The May PMI® registered 55.4 percent, an increase of 0.5 percentage point from April’s reading of 54.9 percent, indicating expansion in manufacturing for the 12th consecutive month. The New Orders Index registered 56.9 percent, an increase of 1.8 percentage points from the 55.1 percent reading in April, indicating growth in new orders for the 12th consecutive month. The Production Index registered 61.0 percent, 5.3 percentage points above the April reading of 55.7 percent. Employment grew for the 11th consecutive month, registering 52.8 percent, a decrease of 1.9 percentage points below April’s reading of 54.7 percent. The Supplier Deliveries Index registered 53.2 percent, 2.7 percentage points below the April reading of 55.9 percent. Comments from the panel reflect generally steady growth, but note some areas of concern regarding raw materials pricing and supply tightness and shortages."


The error resulted when the software incorrectly used the seasonal adjustment factor from the previous month.

Needless to say, this is an absolutely idiotic explanation. So what is the ad libbed narrative we are expected to believe? According to Bloomberg, what happened? This:

Kenneth Kim, an economist at Stone & McCarthy Research Associates Inc. in Princeton, New Jersey, was the first to question the accuracy of the data. On a hunch that there was a discrepancy, he applied the April seasonal-adjustment factors to the raw data for May and came up with the number initially released by ISM.


In the wake of the discovery, “people I haven’t heard from for 10 or 15 years have messaged me out of the blue, saying, ‘great job,’” Kim said today in an interview.


The ISM wasn’t one of them. “I’m not expecting a call from them, which is fine,” he said. “I’ve caused them enough consternation.”

This is correct: we said just this yesterday:

... after we read the Stone McCarthy (SMRA) emails which, sent out at 10:22 am, or 22 minutes after the official ISM release, stated the following:

What follows is our first impression of the May ISM Manufacturing Index. In a later update, we will provide a more complete analysis.


The May ISM Manufacturing Index was reported at 53.2 from 54.9 in April. The declined wiped out the modest rebound in April from 53.7 in March and put the pace of expansion back to one consistent with only modest activity. Four of the five components that make up the index were down, and one was flat.


Market expectations centered at 55.5 within a range of 54.0 to 57.0 in a Bloomberg survey. Our expectation for the index was 55.3. The headline was below market expectations. This will be a disappointment in light of a hoped-for pickup during the spring months, although overall activity remains positive.


We believe the ISM may have misreported the data because our calculated results do not match up with published data. Our calculation would place the index at 55.4.

Which is ironic, because 55.4 is what the first ISM headline number revision of 56 (up from 53.2), was ultimately revised into for the second revision. Almost as if Stone McCarthy was not only telling the world what happened, but was also calculating the ISM's numbers for them (which probably would explain why it took ISM 6 hours to update its website with the "correct" report).

Stone McCarthy added this:

However, the ISM reported the May seasonally adjusted new orders index at 53.3. We have traced the error to utilizing the improper seasonal adjustment factor for May. Instead of utilizing the May factor of 1.064 for new orders, the ISM reused the same factor from April of 1.135, which erroneously produced a seasonally adjusted level of 53.3 using an unadjusted index of 60.5.

Which is great, because thanks to SMRA we finally get a glimpse of these mythical unadjusted numbers. Remember: it is the seasonal adjustment that is supposedly the culprit for everything.

So what actually happened in May based on real, unadjusted data?

Take a wild guess.

Below we share the table that SMRA sent out to subscribers which is the only place, to our knowledge, where unadjusted ISM data is available. And there you have it: the May unadjusted New Orders print was 60.5: the lowest since February while the % of respondents saying "Better" was actually tied for the lowest since January. Somehow, with the magic of seasonality this ended up being the best adjusted print of the year!

We must admit: we have no idea why one would seasonally adjust a survey's responses: after all when one responds "better", "same" or "worse" about how the economy is doing that is... well, their final answer, net of the seasons.

But we do have an idea that when the entire market moves due to a seasonal adjustment which makes the worst month since February into the best month of 2014, then something is very, very wrong, and certainly very manipulated.

We certainly have an idea why the ISM had zero desire to make these unadjusted numbers public in the first place.

All that said, we can't until tomorrow's Service ISM goldilocks number is released again, and again, and again, until the "just right" market reaction is evoked.

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Slave's picture

Anybody paying attention to this AT ALL doesn't believe them. So why are they even trying?

johngaltfla's picture

The ISM people are idiots.

All they had to do was blame NSA hackers.


knukles's picture

So now nobody has a clue not just why, but even how seasonals are applied to survey data (As in What the Fuck is going on here?  Seasonals and survey are an oxymoron.) for whatever purpose which is seriously flawed but not questioned and repeated numerous times without repair after publicly releasing a series of consistently manifest errors without human intervention
Fuck me, mate, you'd think the government was in charge of the data series.

NoDebt's picture

Knuk, buddy, I gotta tell ya, they fudged it up because they just don't care about accuracy any more.  They don't care about doing a good job, providing a reliable data point.  If they did they wouldn't be out here now jawboning about credibility and such.  They don't care about independence or objectivity.  None of that shit pays the bills.

Even if their numbers aren't bought and paid for (the only way you survive now), they're so starved for people who give a crap about the product they produce, they might as well just shut their doors.

Nobody gives a shit about this.  Spit out whatever number you want.  No reward for telling the truth, no punishment for lying.  Just collect your check and move on.  The algos will trade on it, no matter the reality.


PT's picture

I've worked for most of my life but I have spent a fair bit of time unemployed.  I used to think my joblessness was due to a lack of people skills brought on by my spending too much time alone and reading.

Nowadays I think it is because I enjoy maths and I'm good at maths.

Some people don't want to know the real figures, and they don't want their employees to know the real figures.  Took me a long time before I figured that out.

Postal's picture

As George Carlin pointed out, they only want people who are just smart enough to work the machines.

It's no coincidence that mathematicians and communications experts are among the first groups to be eliminated by rogue governments.

PT's picture

But I had no idea I was going to make it so easy for them!

JackT's picture

You nailed it! This is the exact poison that is infecting so many people. I'm seeing it daily. Was in a meeting just yesterday sitting around the table with 10+ "leaders" everyone knew the project was off the rails but no one said a word - I assume because they didn't have a fix. So they sat there like sheep waiting for the inevitable slaughter.

I spoke up and said my piece and proposed a solution. They all agreed but I don't know if they even understood 100% of what they were agreeing to.

Maybe Atlas does fall.

stant's picture

That was only a test by the NSA system. Had this not been a test we would have a different generated title to suit

FuzzyDunlop21's picture

I guess I dont understand why the adjustment for April is less than the adjustment for May. Doesnt April usually have shitt-ier weather? 

Pure Evil's picture

April showers bring May flowers.

They just forgot to factor "Green Shoots" into their calculations.

LetThemEatRand's picture

There are no U.S. tanks in Baghdad.

CrashisOptimistic's picture

Useful to remember that the ZH click revenue would dry up if the Michael Lewis reality wasn't buried as fast as it has been -- but in that context let's all just remember --

That the market didn't react to this data, because there is no market.  There is only HFT.  Traders did not say anything about this ISM data because "traders" say nothing but 100010100011110101.

Seasmoke's picture

Like humans, it's very hard for computers, to keep track of all the web if lies. 

Xanthias's picture


FuzzyDunlop21's picture

Why dont they just make it illegal to sell stawks. So much easier than all this data fudging.

papaswamp's picture

Ah so the nsa index dropped by 2pts Apr to May for new orders.

philipat's picture

Also, I note that in the SMRA data, the seasonal adjustment factor for May is identical to April. How will they explain that away??

Tyler Durden's picture

That was supposedly the error. The factor should have been a smaller one, making the NSA # into a higher SA #.

philipat's picture

Tyler, OK got it. I thought that these were the latest "Re-Revised" numbers but they are obviously the original Un-re-revised numbers.

farragut's picture

We’re incredibly concerned about credibility, and that’s why we’re taking these steps.”

Lol, that's simply too rich for words....

Emergency Ward's picture

I might take that statement as exaggeration except the spokeswoman also said,

“We definitely are very serious about making sure........."

Winston Churchill's picture

If he said folks on the end we would have known for sure it was Obozos

teleprompters fault.

Oldwood's picture

Too bad we don't have an ISM survey of ISM. Me thinks it might be mighty shitty yet have incredibly high credibility.

Lets Buy The Dip's picture

What has typically happened after the stock market performs well in May? THese computers are just silly, but they do know things. 

History says stocks could rally 4% this summer

Analysts at Ned Davis Research tackled this question in a note out Monday. Their findings might encourage stock bulls, who already should be feeling pretty good after the S&P 500 SPX -0.04%  gained 2.1% last month.

Check our this link =>

SDRII's picture

Does this mean the markit ipo gets upsized

what's that smell's picture

"they hate us for our flawless number crunchers."

call me a lunatic but this smells riggy, by sunny jesus.

starman's picture

they were orders for KY jelly and Condoms.

Made in Occupied America's picture

The algos are now running wild in the ISM computers (since they have manipulated almost everything else they can).

hidingfromhelis's picture

Seasonally adjusted elections, a fine tradition going back over 100 years!

dirtyfiles's picture

The worst of all is that this government is growing new generation on this where lies,corruption,manipulation is rewarded with yet another market rally as a confirmation

of a gov.good job.I don't have problem with all this if they know a meteor blow as up tomorrow but I'm afraid its not the case.

Seize Mars's picture

Fantastic job bringing this shit to light, ZH.

Well done!

Soul Glow's picture

The Marathon

- People were always asking me, did I know Tyler Durden?

Over one hundred years ago the banking houses got together and decided they knew how to run finance until the well ran dry:  They would alternate a front runner while knocking off contenders along the way, thus why JPM has stayed in the front of the pack while Morgan Stanley has led, then fallen behind, and of course Bear and Lehman were the ones that took a dive.  

The amazing thing about a marathon is that during the last few miles the various systems of the body - circulation/respitory/etc - shut down and the runner must function off of endorphines alone.  Adrenaline, testasterone, estrogene - and all three are very powerful hormones for both men and women.  

Those last miles are run on will alone; nothing else is involved other than form and determination.  Unfortuneately for everyone under bank control (and that should include most of us) they knew this is how to finish and they have made sure the commoners credit would be fucked by the time they were set to retire - retire because they would give their body and mind to the system for "X" amount of years so they could rest in peace for a pension, a promise to pay, a common animal misconception of being taken care of.  

The markets will stay irrational longer than you can stay solvant - this is true, yet what those of us who know the conforms of reality understand the banks can only run this side for so long; their side is the be happy by as much junk as you think you can afford - as the rational consumer theory stipulates (a theory held universal by the study of Econimcs).  Try to get the finest woman, nevermind her past/ get a job that pays best, nevermind the hours/ buy the finest items/ nevermind if they are actually worth your money (money equals time multiplied by energy).

Good fucking luck.

The banks banked on this and this alone.  They manipulated the markets accordingly all along the way, hoping for no change (while the politicians that supported them promised the opposite).  Good luck to the common man, but if you are such you've been had.  No blog can save him.  He was finished the moment he wished he could buy the world.  The world does not matter, hint, it is only your soul that matters.

crusty curmudgeon's picture

The most important things in life are free. 

If this sounds dubious or radical, you may want to read this.

magnumpk's picture

The Fed changes its forward guidance, so I guess the ISM likes to change its rearward guidance.

Soul Glow's picture

Forward Gudiance - like a magician guides a dove up his sleeve.

Oldwood's picture

All data is for the express purpose of supporting the current theme...all is well, please return to your, investing.

Everybodys All American's picture

Theme: Support the local dc dictator.

TooBearish's picture

Rapidly we embrace the AI menatlity that the 'computer glich' is the reason for all things wrong.  The Drone killed my baby....the algo blew up my 201k... Gold smacked down because of algo driven naked shorts....I was arrested because the "system" got my name wrong as a sexx offender....get  out of the "system " while u can.....the end is nigh.  Rock on BTFATH

Everybodys All American's picture

You can damn well bet this administration is behind all of this corruption in the data and it starts at the top.

XitSam's picture

I'm convinced that government is doing whatever it wants without regard to laws, requirements, truth, ethics, morals or any limiting factor.  It matters to them only if they get caught. But will blame it on a "computer glitch".  Or apologize (the Bergdahl Taliban release).  Or stonewall (IRS/Tea Party, Fast & Furious, and others too numerous to remember).  Or promise to do better in the future or improve procedures.  They even lie to other branches of government.  And this is top to bottom.  Local police are arresting people for "crimes" that don't exist.  Blaming "procedure" for a flashbang grenade going off in a baby's face.  

The law only applies to the peons.  The elites can do whatever they want.

TheRedScourge's picture

The greatest innovation of the immoral was the invention of morality. Because if you can convince everyone it's wrong to do something and then make an exception for yourself, you have absolutely no competition.

intric8's picture

Lets just expect agencies to retcon data to support gdp like all good keynesians do

tom a taxpayer's picture

Seasonal adjustments are ISM's way of adding "value" to their survey. ISM's premium subscribers also get hedonic adjustments adding even more "value" to the ISM survey.

crusty curmudgeon's picture

“Everything you add to the truth subtracts from the truth.”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Sticky Wicket's picture

My opinion is that the guys at the ISM are idiots. My seasonally adjusted opinion is the guys at the ISM are geniuses.

Soul Glow's picture

Enron had Arthor Anderson.