November’s ISM manufacturing index is 48.1, a worse-than-expected contraction

Manufacturing activity continued to lag in November amid a lag in inventories and new orders, according to the latest ISM Manufacturing reading released Monday.

The reading came in at 48.1 vs. an expectation of 49.4 and the previous month’s reading of 48.3.

Though the ISM reading is usually reported as a simple number, it actually denotes the percentage of manufacturers planning to expand operations. A reading below 50 represents contraction.

New orders slumped to 47.2, down 1.9 percentage points from October’s 49.1. Inventories, which are a key input for gross domestic product, came in at 45.5, down 3.4 points from the previous month.

The numbers come amid speculation about the pace of U.S. growth. 

Recession worries have ebbed from earlier in the year, when the Treasury yield curve was inverted and flashing what has been a reliable 12-month recession indicator for the past 50 years. GDP growth has averaged around 2.4% in 2019, with the third quarter coming in at 2.1%. However, most forecasters expect the fourth quarter to come in under 2%.

In a related release, the Markit manufacturing reading, known as the Purchasing Managers Index, indicated expansion, coming in at 52.6, just above expectations and a bit better than the 51.3 October reading.

The Markit PMI growth reflected an uptick in production and new orders as well as strength in employment indicators. It was the strongest reading in seven months.

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