ISM Reporting: Upbeat vs. "Gloom and Doom"
The upbeat version from Scott Grannis: "The ISM manufacturing index (above) was stronger than expected, and as my chart suggests, this is fully consistent with the 3-4% economic growth rate (if not more) that I've been expecting to see for the past year. It's a bit weaker than the fabulously strong levels that were showing up recently, but it is not supporting the popular "new normal" economy theory, in which growth registers a feeble 2-3%.
Most encouraging was the employment index (bottom chart above) which is still at very strong levels that have been seen only rarely in the past several decades. This is very good news, since the weakest part of the recovery so far has been jobs and business investment, and the ISM index suggests that the manufacturing sector has shrugged off this malaise quite nicely.
My thesis is still in place: this economy is growing at a 3-4% pace, which is not very impressive given the extent of the recent recession, but it is stronger than the market has been expecting, and that is enough to drive equity prices higher and corporate spreads lower.
The "gloom and doom" version of the exact same ISM report from FT.com:
"The ISM Survey of the US manufacturing sector (published on Monday) offers the first reliable glimpse of activity in the US economy in the third quarter of the year. It is not encouraging.
Although the headline reading was rather better than widely anticipated (an out-turn of 55.5 compared to 56.2 in June), the details of the survey showed that new orders are now slowing markedly, and inventories have started to rise more rapidly than companies may be intending. Taken together with the GDP data for Q2 (discussed in an earlier blog), the ISM survey points to a significant danger that the US economy will continue to slow sharply in the months ahead. Although this can be a somewhat volatile series on a monthly basis, the underlying trend in the series (also shown in the graph) is now definitely headed downwards.
It is surprising to me that the stock market has so far been so resilient in the face of the mounting weight of evidence that growth rate in the US economy has dipped below trend, with no knowing where this will end."