Manufacturers Still See Expansion, But (and that’s a hugely concerning “but”!)

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) monthly surveys are hugely telling about the state of the economy; they are important constituents in our PWA Macro Index. Readings over 50 denote economic expansion.

This morning’s ISM Manufacturing Survey for October was released and it scored a 57.7, comfortably remaining in expansion mode.

Now, what’s uncomfortable is that October’s reading was a notable 2.1 point decline from September’s and, per the report’s featured respondents’ comments below, manufacturers are hugely (our adjective of the day) uncomfortable with their business prospects given present international trade conditions (currently our hugest macro concern!):


“All electronic components are having shortages and much longer lead times that impact our production.” (Computer & Electronic Products)

“Tariffs are causing inflation: increased costs of imports, increased cost of freight and increased domestic costs from suppliers who import.” (Chemical Products)

“Protein prices continue under pressure from heavy U.S. supplies and export concerns related to trade tariffs. Higher costs related to trade tariffs are starting to be passed on to the cost of goods sold.” (Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products)

“While order intake remains steady, the pace has slowed since the first half the year. Instead of growing, the backlog is declining. We were processing orders at a high level; now they are at the point of status quo from late 2017. We are not concerned yet, but there is certainly trepidation about the future.” (Machinery)

NAFTA 2.0/USMCA does nothing to help our company, as it does not address Section 232 tariffs.” (Plastics & Rubber Products)

“We continue to run at full capacity. I continue to see pricing pressures and longer lead times in most commodities.” (Primary Metals)

Mounting pressure due to pending tariffs. Bracing for delays in material from China — a rush of orders trying to race tariff implementation is flooding shipping and customs.” (Miscellaneous Manufacturing)

“Demand is high, and the supply chains are stressed.” (Transportation Equipment)

“Orders and shipments are strong right now. Backlog for Q4 and next year are way down. Savvy customers are asking us to hold pricing on blanket orders, but material suppliers will only hold prices for a few days, which puts us in a bad spot. We’ll be spending as much as possible on capital improvements before the end of the year.” (Fabricated Metal Products)

Steel tariffs continue to negatively affect our cost, even though we utilize U.S. sources for steel. Oil prices put meaningful upward pressure on cost. Continued tightness with truck drivers is expected.” (Petroleum & Coal Products)

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