September Manufacturing ISM Beats Expectations, Rises Modestly

Just like Friday's Chicago PMI, the Manufacturing ISM has now completely decoupled from not only the developing world, but from the rest of America, as somehow US manufacturing in September came in better than expected, printing at 51.6, on expectations of a modest decline from 50.6 in August to 50.5. Commentary from the ISM's Bradley Holcomb: "The PMI registered 51.6 percent, an increase of 1 percentage point from August, indicating expansion in the manufacturing sector for the 26th consecutive month, at a slightly higher rate. The Production Index registered 51.2 percent, indicating a return to growth after contracting in August for the first time since May of 2009. The New Orders Index remained unchanged from August at 49.6 percent, indicating contraction for the third consecutive month. The Backlog of Orders Index decreased 4.5 percentage points to 41.5 percent, contracting for the fourth consecutive month and reaching its lowest level since April 2009, when it registered 40.5 percent. Comments from respondents generally reflect concern over the sluggish economy, political and policy uncertainty in Washington, and forecasts of ongoing high unemployment that will continue to put pressure on demand for manufactured products." And reading within the index, the data was not all good, with the all important New Orders unchanged, while an increase in Price Paid showed a modest increase in inflation, and hence deterioration in margins. Compounding the picture, Backlog of orders slumped, while Customer inventories increased. Altogether a non-impressive number, although at least it did not post the first contraction in 26 months, as Goldman had expected.

September PMI. This is supposed to be good news?

New Orders vs GDP:

PMI Constituents:

From the survey respondents:

  • "The economy continues to be a drag on our business outlook. We are trying to deal with new and additional FDA regulations which are costing significant dollars. It is hard to recoup any of these additional costs in our pricing levels without losing significant sales volumes." (Chemical Products)
  • "Market is cautious, but still steady." (Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components)
  • "Global demand for semiconductors is down and maybe not yet 'bottomed out.' Inventory reduction activities are a priority." (Computer & Electronic Products)
  • "Still strong automotive demand." (Fabricated Metal Products)
  • "Orders remain consistent and steady — no sign of lower demand." (Paper Products)
  • "Japan supply chain issues are over, but exchange rates and raw material prices are hurting our profit." (Transportation Equipment)
  • "We sense a weakening in demand, but it is not extreme at this point." (Plastics & Rubber Products)
  • "Overall, business is improving with a measurable uptick in orders this month. Part of that is due to pre-holiday season orders." (Miscellaneous Manufacturing)
  • "Business continues to be sluggish." (Furniture & Related Products)

And knee jerk reaction from Wall Street, via Reuters:


"The ISM manufacturing index was a little better than expected, but not greatly reassuring, mainly because new orders are stagnant, in contrast to the very good news evident in the Chicago purchasing managers survey. But the nationwide ISM survey did have the redeeming feature that employment strengthened, which could mean companies are looking beyond the immediate weakness. Export orders were encouragingly strong."