Even with the retreat last month, the gauge remains well above the 51.5 average for all of 2016 and indicates healthy optimism among factory managers. The data show manufacturing is settling into a more sustained pace of growth after expanding in February by the most since mid-2014.
The decline also brings the factory diffusion index back toward levels that are more in line with so-called “hard data,” including industrial production and manufacturer orders and shipments. The Federal Reserve’s latest production report showed factory output dropped 0.4 percent in March on weakness in the auto sector.
While the ISM’s April measures of new orders and factory employment cooled from a month earlier, the report showed overseas markets are doing better. The group’s index of export orders climbed in April to the highest level since November 2013. What’s more, a gauge of customer inventories dropped to the lowest level since July 2015, a sign bookings and production will remain strong.
From a policy perspective, the Trump administration’s recent release of a tax-cut plan may provide a glimpse into eventual legislation, giving businesses a bit more clarity for future investments and hiring.
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