Disappointing ISM manufacturing index weighed on US markets, making investors more cautious ahead of today’s employment report. Wall Street was mixed with DJIA gaining +0.4% while S&P 500 index staying flat at close. Treasuries strengthened (yields lower) as soft ISM data trimmed rate hike speculations. In the commodities sector, energy prices remained under pressure with both crude benchmarks declining for a fourth consecutive day. The front-month WTI crude contract plunged to as low as 43 before settling at 43.13, down -3.45%, while the Brent contract lost -3.38% to settle at 45.45. Both contracts have slumped more than -9% over the past 4 days. Precious metals were mixed with gold and silver climbing higher and platinum and palladium weakening for the three consecutive days.
The US ISM manufacturing index slumped to 49.4, the lowest level since January, in August, from 52.6 a month ago. The market had anticipated a milder drop to 54.5. Looking into the details, the “production” index dropped to 49.6, moving into contractionary territory for the first time this year, the “forward-looking new orders” index plunged to an 8-month low of 49.1, while the “employment” index plunged to a 5-month low of 48.3. We expect the headline ISM index would stay under pressure over the coming months, shown in the decline in the new orders to inventories ratio. Meanwhile, US unit labor costs grew 4.3% saar in 2Q16, up from +2.1%s previously. Construction spending stayed flat in July, compared with an upwardly revised +0.9% growth in June. The market had anticipated a +0.5% gain in July. Initial jobless claims rose to 263K in the week ended August 27, compared with consensus of 265K and 261K in the prior week. As we await the payrolls report, Challenger estimated that the number of jobs cut dropped -21.8% y/y in August, after a -57.1% decline a month ago.
UK’s dataflow surprised to the upside. Markit’s PMI manufacturing index surprisingly jumped to a 10-month high of 53.3 in August, compared with consensus of 49.1 and July’s upwardly revised 48.3 a month ago. The detailed report indicates expansions in both activity and new orders. As Markit suggested, the reading indicates “a solid rebound in the performance of the UK manufacturing sector from the steep downturn that followed the EU referendum. Companies reported that work that had been postponed during July had now been restarted, as manufacturers and their clients started to regain a sense of returning to business as usual. The domestic market showed a marked recovery, especially for consumer products, while the recent depreciation of sterling drove higher inflows of new business from the USA, Europe, Scandinavia, Middle East and Asia”.
The focus today is US’ employment report. The number of non-farm payrolls probably increased +188K in August, down from the +255K addition a month ago. The unemployment rate probably slipped to 4.8% from 4.9% in July. Average hourly earnings might have gained +0.2% m/m in August, compared with a +0.3% growth a month ago.