The manufacturing PMI has been consistently running warmer than other manufacturing surveys which helps put into context the disappointment of December's slowing to 51.2, down from 52.8 in November. The final reading for December is 1 tenth lower than the mid-month flash. Near stagnation in new orders is a key negative in the report, one that points to further slowing for the headline index in coming readings. Orders are still growing but at their slowest pace of the recovery, since September 2009. Backlog orders are contracting sharply, the most since September 2009 as well. The report points to widespread weakness across orders including for export orders where manufacturers continue to site strength in the dollar as a negative.
Among other readings, production is flat, pre-production inventories are down, but hiring, at least for now, is still strong. Price data show continued contraction for inputs, the result of low oil and commodity prices, but a third month of gains for finished prices which is one of the few pluses in this report. Up next at 10:00 a.m. ET on the calendar will be the very closely watched ISM manufacturing report.
Purchasing Managers' Manufacturing Index (PMIs) is based on monthly questionnaire surveys of selected companies which provide an advance indication of what is really happening in the private sector economy.
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 in the U.S. and the Markit PMIs in the U.S. and elsewhere, 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 Markit PMI 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. And its sub-indexes provide a picture of orders, output, employment and prices.
Markit originally began collecting monthly Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) data in the U.S. in April 2004, initially from a panel of manufacturers in the U.S. electronics goods producing sector. In May 2007, Markit's U.S. PMI research was extended out to cover producers of metal goods. In October 2009, Markit's U.S. Manufacturing PMI survey panel was extended further to cover all areas of U.S. manufacturing activity. Back data for Markit's U.S. Manufacturing PMI between May 2007 and September 2009 are an aggregation of data collected from producers of electronic goods and metal goods producers, while data from October 2009 are based on data collected from a panel representing the entire U.S. manufacturing economy. Markit's total U.S. Manufacturing PMI survey panel comprises over 600 companies.
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