The survey's composite index is designed to be a leading indicator for the manufacturing sector. The September 2013 composite index was at 66, up from 58 in the June survey. It was the third consecutive quarterly advance and put the index at its highest level since December 2011, when it also stood at 66.
The index has been above the threshold level of 50 for 16 quarters, indicating ongoing expansion.
"Most indexes improved in September, and several rose significantly," said Donald A. Norman, MAPI senior economist and survey coordinator. "In particular, the large increase in the Composite Index and the jump in the U.S. Prospective Shipments and the Backlog Orders indexes point to an increased pace of manufacturing activity in the fourth quarter."
The Composite Business Outlook Index is based on a weighted sum of the Prospective U.S. Shipments, Backlog Orders, Inventory, and Profit Margin Indexes. The views of 51 senior financial executives, representing a range of manufacturing industries, are distilled into 13 individual indexes split between current business conditions and forward-looking prospects.