Has the recent slowdown in US manufacturing run its course? That’s the implication in today’s flash estimate of Markit’s purchasing managers’ index (PMI), which increased by to 54.0 in October from 53.1 in the previous month—a five-month high that puts more distance between current activity and the neutral 50.0 mark. It’s still too early to break out the champagne or assume that the US economy is set to roar in the months ahead. But today’s release suggests that the manufacturing sector in the world’s biggest economy will continue to post moderate growth after a bout of deceleration.
Markit noted that today’s PMI numbers reflect the “sharpest improvement in business conditions since May” for US manufacturing. Commenting on the update, Markit’s chief economist, Chris Williamson, said that “October’s flash PMI survey brought welcome signs of stronger manufacturing growth at the start of the fourth quarter.” The positive report “suggests the economy may be picking up speed again after slowing in the third quarter, for which the PMI surveys pointed to annualized GDP growth of 2.2%.”
One data point should be viewed cautiously, of course. Nonetheless, the October macro profile is off to an encouraging start. There’s a long road ahead before declaring that the US macro trend will stabilize, much less accelerate. Indeed, next week’s third-quarter GDP report is expected to show a hefty deceleration in growth, according to the Atlanta Fed’s current nowcast. But GDP data, as usual, will arrive well after the fact. We already know that the trend has slowed. The question, highlighted in today’s PMI report, is whether the end of Q3 was the trough? We’ll know more after seeing next week’s busy lineup of economic releases.
Meantime, today’s PMI release tells us that the US macro trend isn’t deteriorating at the kickoff to the fourth quarter. That’s also the message in the October projection of the US Economic Trend Index, which held steady in this month’s estimate, as shown in the chart below.
Mr. Market’s outlook is looking up as well, as I discussed earlier today. As for manufacturing, two indexes from regional Fed banks also show some improvement in the October data. The New York and Philly Fed benchmarks are still reflecting contraction for this month’s readings, but the latest figures hold out the possibility that a firmer trend is emerging, as shown in the chart below.
It’s too early to say that this month marks the start of a stronger run of economic activity for the US generally, although the data du jour strengthens the view that growth will at least stabilize and perhaps tick up in the months to come.