Macro Mondays: ISM Manufacturing Index


A new year means new things to learn, so I thought I would bring back Macro Mondays in the hope that GradMoney readers can learn a bit more about economic data and what it means for the stock market, your investing prospects, your own portfolio, and your retirement. Learn new things every Monday with us and if you have any questions or suggestions for topics, feel free to send them my way!

What is the ISM Manufacturing Index?

The manufacturing composite index from the Institute For Supply Management is a diffusion index calculated from five of the eleven sub-components of a monthly survey of purchasing managers at roughly 300 manufacturing firms nationwide. The survey queries purchasing managers about the general direction of production, new orders, order backlogs, their own inventories, customer inventories, employment, supplier deliveries, exports, imports, and prices. The five components of the composite index are new orders, production, employment, supplier deliveries, and inventories (their own, not customer inventories). The five components are equally weighted. The questions are qualitative rather than quantitative; that is, they ask about the general direction rather than the specific level of activity. Each question is adjusted into a diffusion index which is calculated by adding the percentage of positive responses to one-half of the unchanged responses.

Why Should Investors Care?

Investors need to keep their fingers on the pulse of the economy because it dictates how various types of investments will perform. By tracking economic data such as the ISM manufacturing index, investors will know what the economic backdrop is for the various markets. The stock market likes to see healthy economic growth because that translates to higher corporate profits. The bond market prefers less rapid growth and is extremely sensitive to whether the economy is growing too quickly and causing potential inflationary pressures. The ISM manufacturing data give a detailed look at the manufacturing sector, how busy it is and where things are headed. Since the manufacturing sector is a major source of cyclical variability in the economy, this report has a big influence on the markets. More than one of the ISM sub-indexes provide insight on commodity prices and clues regarding the potential for developing inflation. The Federal Reserve keeps a close watch on this report which helps it to determine the direction of interest rates when inflation signals are flashing in these data. As a result, the bond market is highly sensitive to this report.

These details and more can be found on Bloomberg's Economic Calendar.

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