October 6, 2016 Reading Time: 2 minutes

The monthly economic data cycle kicked off with two early reads on activity for September. First is the Institute for Supply Management’s Purchasing Managers’ Index, or PMI, a survey of purchasing managers at U.S. manufacturers. The composite PMI rebounded to 51.5 from 49.4 in August. Readings above 50 suggest expansion, and readings below 50 suggest contraction.

Two key components also rebounded in September.  The new orders index jumped to 55.1 from 49.1 in August, while the production index rose to 52.8 from 49.6 (Chart 1). Combined, these data suggest a more positive outlook for the manufacturing sector in coming months. That qualifies as good news.

The second new data point is unit-vehicle sales from auto manufacturers. Unit-vehicle sales came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 16.9 million in September. That is down from the August pace and somewhat below the record setting pace achieved for all of 2015. But it is still considered a generally high level by historical standards. So this qualifies as somewhat good news.

Interestingly, the gains in light vehicle sales are being driven by light trucks, pickups and SUV’s, which continue to take market share away from autos (Chart 2, which shows seasonally adjusted light vehicle sales).  This is a continuation of the longer-term shift in preference by American consumers and helped along by low gas prices.

Overall, these data given an early positive tone to the economic outlook as the fourth quarter gets underway.

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Robert Hughes

Bob Hughes

Robert Hughes joined AIER in 2013 following more than 25 years in economic and financial markets research on Wall Street. Bob was formerly the head of Global Equity Strategy for Brown Brothers Harriman, where he developed equity investment strategy combining top-down macro analysis with bottom-up fundamentals. Prior to BBH, Bob was a Senior Equity Strategist for State Street Global Markets, Senior Economic Strategist with Prudential Equity Group and Senior Economist and Financial Markets Analyst for Citicorp Investment Services. Bob has a MA in economics from Fordham University and a BS in business from Lehigh University.

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