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Economy in Brief

U.S. ISM Nonmanufacturing Index Strengthens; Pricing Power Eases
by Tom Moeller  March 3, 2017

The Composite Index of Nonmanufacturing Sector Activity from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) increased to 57.6 in February from 56.5 during January. February's reading continued as the highest level since October 2015. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected an unchanged reading of 56.5. The ISM data are diffusion indexes where readings above 50 indicate expansion.

Haver Analytics constructs a Composite Index using the nonmanufacturing ISM index and the ISM factory sector measure which was released Wednesday. This composite rose to 57.6 in February from 56.4 in January, and was the highest level since August 2015. During the last ten years, there has been a 73% correlation between this index and the q/q change in real GDP.

Most of the nonmanufacturing index components improved last month. The business activity index surged to 63.6, the strongest level since February 2011. The new orders reading similarly strengthened to 61.2, an 18-month high. The employment index improved slightly to 55.2. It remained at the upper end of the range where it's hovered since early last year. During the last ten years there has been an 89% correlation between the ISM nonmanufacturing sector jobs index and the m/m change in private service plus construction sector payrolls. Weakening last month was the supplier delivery index which showed the quickest delivery speeds in twelve months.

The prices paid index declined modestly to 57.7, but remained up from its February 2016 low of 46.1. Twenty-two percent (NSA) of firms reported paying higher prices, double the February 2016 low. Six percent of firms paid lower prices versus 17% twelve months earlier.

Amongst the other detail indexes, which are not seasonally adjusted, export orders jumped m/m to 57.0, up from the 53.5 reading twelve months earlier. The import index fell m/m to 51.0, down from 55.5 last February. The order backlog index rose y/y to 54.0 from 52.0.

The ISM figures are available in Haver's USECON database, with additional detail in the SURVEYS database. The expectations figure from Action Economics is in the AS1REPNA database.

From Adding Accommodation to Scaling It Back is the title of today's speech by Fed Chair Janet L. Yellen, and it can be found here.

ISM Nonmanufacturing Survey (SA) Feb Jan Dec Feb'16 2016 2015 2014
Composite Diffusion Index 57.6 56.5 56.6 54.3 54.9 57.1 56.2
   Business Activity 63.6 60.3 60.9 58.3 58.0 60.8 59.6
   New Orders 61.2 58.6 60.7 56.8 57.5 59.2 58.5
   Employment 55.2 54.7 52.7 51.4 52.6 56.0 54.8
   Supplier Deliveries (NSA) 50.5 52.5 52.0 50.5 51.5 52.5 51.8
Prices Index 57.7 59.0 56.1 46.1 52.7 50.6 56.7
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