Flash PMI Readings Show Weaker US Growth in August

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Some economic reports look strong. Others look weak. The IHS Markit Flash PMI in the United States is showing that growth is cooling off fast. Investors and economists might want to consider that earnings season was incredibly strong and that the S&P 500 hit all-time highs again this week, but at the end the day a bad economic report is a bad economic report.

According to IHS Markit, the Flash U.S. PMI indicates that the private sector output growth lost its momentum in August.

The Flash U.S. Composite Output Index hit a month low at 55.0 in August, down from 55.7 in July. Its Services Business Activity Index was also at a four-month low at 55.2, compared with 56.0 in July. Manufacturing was weaker in August as well. The Manufacturing PMI came down to 54.5 from 55.3 in July, a nine-month low. And the Manufacturing Output Index ticked down marginally to 54.3 from 54.5 in July, but this was said to be an 11-month low.

Before getting overly panicked here, and to get ahead of the negative scare-tactic headlines you might see elsewhere, the latest Flash PMI reading is still well above the 50.0 no-change value (under 50 represents actual contraction, above is expansion). It is also broadly in line with its post-crisis average of 55.2.

Several issues are keeping a lid on the growth here. Some private sector firms said that they have had difficulties sustaining the steep rate of their order book growth that was seen during the first half of 2018. And on that endless job hiring that has been seen, IHS Markit showed that staffing levels in August increased at the softest pace for over a year.

There was news on the inflation front as well. IHS Markit showed another sharp rise in input costs, but it did say that the rate of inflation moderated to a seven-month low. The private sector firms cited higher prices for steel-intensive items and also noted a renewed pressure to boost staff wages.

IHS Markit’s August Flash PMI report said:

August data indicated that business activity growth in the U.S. private sector eased further from the three-year peak seen in May. A loss of momentum was recorded in both the manufacturing and service sectors during the latest survey period. Payroll numbers meanwhile increased at the slowest pace since June 2017. On a more positive note, inflationary pressures moderated in August, reflecting the least marked rise in average cost burdens since the start of 2018.

Things still are, by and large, better in the United States than they are in Europe. IHS Markit issued a separate Flash Eurozone PMI report that indicated that the eurozone economy continued to grow but also said that the rate of expansion was one of the weakest in the past year and a half. European firms also saw their expectations of future growth at the slowest level in nearly two years.

Data for the IHS Markit Flash PMI reports were collected between August 13 and August 22.

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