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The ISM PMI index is a survey of manufacturers and measures the overall strength of the manufacturing sector. A measure over 50 indicates the sector is growing while over 43 suggests the economy overall is expanding. Over the last five months of 2019 this measure fell below 50, leading analysts and investors to wonder if we were in a manufacturing recession, driven by the U.S.-China trade dispute and slowing global growth. However, January’s reading came in at 50.9, beating expectations of 48.5 and recovering from an almost four year low. January’s surprise gain was met positively by stocks, bond yields, and dollar gains. The PMI had recently been held back by weak export markets and the trade war and it seems that news of the Phase One trade agreement between the U.S. and China supported manufacturing health; however, effects of the coronavirus nearly freezing parts of China’s economy and Boeing’s halted production straining producers will likely impact February’s number. So, while January’s reading was certainly a welcomed surprise, economists are now in “wait and see” mode to see how these risks play out in February.
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