The Institute for Supply Management will release its April manufacturing report tomorrow morning. The report follows a week of positive news on the overall health of the U.S. economy, including 3.2% GDP growth and slowing inflation in the first quarter 2019.
The ISM’s purchasing manager index will provide new information on the health of the manufacturing sector, which has shown volatility this year as it continues to face headwinds from a slowing global economy and ongoing trade negotiations. Economists expect the PMI to fall slightly from 55.3 to 55.0, according to a consensus compiled by Bloomberg. Here are five things to look for in tomorrow’s report.
The ISM’s employment index in March rose 5.2 percentage points from the previous month, with 13 of the 18 industries surveyed reporting employment growth. But the ISM’s positive result for March was contradicted by data from the payroll processing firm ADP and the U.S. Department of Labor, which both reported a decline in new manufacturing jobs in March.
If tomorrow’s ISM report indicates a decline in hiring, it will be another warning sign of a weakening job market for the sector.
2. Tariffs and trade negotiations
It’s been a little over a year since the Trump Administration first imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, raising costs for U.S. manufacturers who rely on these raw materials for production.
Purchasing managers in the ISM’s report have commented on higher costs stemming from tariffs throughout 2019. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said trade negotiations between the U.S. and China are “into the final laps,” but April’s report will likely continue to be sprinkled with complaints from purchasers caught up in the trade war.
3. Signs of a cooling global economy
The global economy is slowing, with the International Monetary Fund predicting this year’s growth rate to be the weakest in a decade. The ISM report will offer a fresh look at how headwinds in the global economy are affecting imports and exports for the U.S. manufacturing sector.
Last month, imports and new export orders fell to new lows in the ISM’s report. The imports index, while still growing, fell to its lowest growth level since January 2017. The new exports index reached a 29-month low. If this downward trend continues in April, it will serve as another sign that the U.S. is not immune to ripple effects from the economic slowdown abroad.
First quarter GDP growth was powered in large part by an expansion of inventories, adding $32 billion in goods for the quarter. There isn’t a consensus on what these growth-driving inventories were, though White House economists say the boost stemmed from increased activity in the auto industry and the activation of new U.S. factories.
Tomorrow’s inventories index from the ISM will offer new information on the state of manufacturing inventories and any evidence of an expected slowdown in the second quarter.
5. New Orders
The ISM’s new orders index represents the volume of new orders that manufacturing sales representatives received during the reporting month. A significant increase in new orders in April would signal high production levels in the months ahead. A drop in new orders could indicate a slowdown in the economy in the second quarter.
Last month, the ISM’s new orders index rose 1.9 percentage points. Economist will be watching to see if the index reaches its 40th consecutive month of growth in April.