Thursday, March 8, 2012

Beige Book: Services

From the Beige Book:

Nonfinancial services activity was stable or increased in the New York, Philadelphia, Richmond, Atlanta, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Dallas, and San Francisco Districts. Transportation services were stable or trending higher in the Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta, and Dallas Districts. In contrast, freight transportation contacts in the St. Louis and Kansas City Districts reported that business had slowed. Information technology service firms in the Boston, St. Louis, Kansas City, and San Francisco Districts have experienced increased demand since the previous reporting period. Additionally, contacts in health care announced plans to increase capital spending or expand operations in the Richmond and St. Louis Districts.

The above information is positive. Let's see how it tracks with the ISM index:

The overall ISM services index is currently at its highest level in a year.  Also note that even when the economy slowed down last fall, we don't see signs of a contraction in the ISM index

The business activity index has also spiked recently, indicating a more active environment.

Let's go to the latest report:

The report was issued today by Anthony Nieves, C.P.M., CFPM, chair of the Institute for Supply Management™ Non-Manufacturing Business Survey Committee. "The NMI registered 57.3 percent in February, 0.5 percentage point higher than the 56.8 percent registered in January, and indicating continued growth at a faster rate in the non-manufacturing sector. The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index registered 62.6 percent, which is 3.1 percentage points higher than the 59.5 percent reported in January, reflecting growth for the 31st consecutive month. The New Orders Index increased by 1.8 percentage points to 61.2 percent, and the Employment Index decreased by 1.7 percentage points to 55.7 percent, indicating continued growth in employment, but at a slower rate. The Prices Index increased 4.9 percentage points to 68.4 percent, indicating prices increased at a faster rate in February when compared to January. According to the NMI, 14 non-manufacturing industries reported growth in February. The majority of comments from the respondents reflect a growing level of optimism about business conditions and the overall economy. There is a concern about inflation, rising fuel prices and petroleum-based product costs."

And here is the anecdotal information:
  • "Year-over-year and month-over-month growth continues. Market conditions improved dramatically." (Information)
  • "Although customer traffic continues to decline, discretionary spending per capita is increasing. There is a bit more confidence regarding current economic conditions, spurring on slightly more aggressive marketing to capture new customers and encourage repeat visits." (Arts, Entertainment & Recreation)
  • "Business is generally flat, but showing signs of improvement." (Health Care & Social Assistance)
  • "Bracing for impact of fuel price increases on delivered commodity prices." (Educational Services)
  • "Optimism is all around, but sales remain sluggish. Activity shows interest, but market [is] very price sensitive." (Professional, Scientific & Technical Services)
  • "Signs are building that things are starting to settle and business is stabilizing. Although orders aren't increasing rapidly, they are steady and consistent instead of the radical swings of the past two years. We hope that this trend will continue." (Retail Trade)
  • "Demand [is] gradually increasing for most business sectors." (Wholesale Trade)
Short version: the service sector is looking pretty good right now.