The Institute for Supply Management is one of the largest organizations of its kind in the world. With some 50,000 personnel in more than 100 countries, their membership includes the agents, managers,and mediators engaged in sourcing, procuring, and purchasing goods and services across the globe. While the organization provides vital training, networking, and certifications for supply management personnel, it also offers a critical snapshot of the global economy. Initially called the National Association of Purchasing Agents, these are the professionals that have their thumb on the pulse of manufacturing supply and demand.
The ISM’s Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) is generally considered to be a vital measure of industrial activity. It is based on a monthly survey of purchasing and supply executives across 19 industries that report on changes in things like new orders, inventory, production, supply levels, back log, prices, import/export sand employment activities.Any PMI reading above 50% indicates an expansion of the manufacturing sector while a reading under 50% suggests a contraction.
So, why does PMI matter? If the economy had an engine room, the PMI reading tells you whether it’s humming, sputtering or on fire. It is a front line assessment of economic activity in areas like Chemical products, Apparel, Electrical Equipment, Transportation Equipment, Computer and Electronic Products, Plastic and Rubber Products, Machinery,Petroleum and Coal Products, etc. These industries not only provide a glimpse into the health of the economy but are often a precursor to changes in GDP,jobs data, and overall business confidence.
In September, the U.S. Purchasing Manager’s Index dropped to 47.8% from 49.1% in August, marking the second,consecutive month of contraction. Out of the 18 manufacturing industries tracked, only three reported growth as a deceleration shifted to an outright decline and the overall slum preached a level not seen since June of 2009.
Remember 2009? It was the waning days of the manufacturing recession. It was the year that Congress approved the $787 billion economic stimulus package and another $75 billion plan to help stop for eclosures —and yet the number of homes under water hit record levels, investors panicked, the markets plummeted,the unemployment rate hit 10%, and the June PMI reading came in at 45.8% —-just two percentage points lower than this past month.
So why is U.S manufacturing recession in a contraction? Some analysts are blaming the trade war with China for increasing costs and creating financial uncertainty. Peter Boock var, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group,echoed this sentiment stating in a CNBC report on October 1st,“We have now tariffed our way into a manufacturing recession in the U.S. and globally.” Others blame a host of other factors like falling oil prices, a slumping global economy, slowing Chinese growth, rising Brexit turmoil, and exploding lobal debt. Still others see this as part of a larger, cyclical slowdown that has been long in the making, long coming,and with far-reaching impact.We are, after all, still riding the longest expansion in U.S. history.
Regardless of the precise triggers, the dismal reading sends a clear message and a potential fateful warning. Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG Union Bank put it more starkly, “Purchasing managers are telling stock market investors to get out.”
We all know that gold is negatively correlated to the markets, and that’s all we really need to know in order to grasp its safe haven power. And if we’re hitting 2009 economic benchmarks, we may already be at a tipping point and should perhaps “Run,” as Rupkey further cautions on equities, “Get out while you can. The outlook is darkening and the thunder is growing louder by the day.”