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Recessionary Risks Mount as ISM Manufacturing Index Hits 10-Year Low, Gold Price Rises

The ISM US manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Index sunk to the lowest point since June 2009 according to a report released on Tuesday. The index came in at 47.8, marking the second month of contraction in a row.

Key Takeaways

  • The ISM manufacturing index came in at 47.8 as exports sunk amid the escalating trade war between the US and China.
  • The new export orders index dropped to the lowest level since March 2009 at 41.
  • The report has fueled concerns of recessionary pressures mounting in the US economy, potentially threatening the record-breaking 11-year expansion.

Exports sunk to 41 in September as the trade war expanded to include broader categories of goods. Any reading below 50 marks contraction, and exports have now contracted for two months with a reading of 47.8 in September and 43.3 in August. The ISM employment gauge hit the lowest point since January 2016 due to reduced demand for employment. Indices for new orders, raw materials inventories, and backlogs also contracted according to the ISM.

The contraction in manufacturing is the latest in a series of major economic indicators that point to an economic slowdown, or perhaps a recession, fueled in no small part by the drag created by the trade war. Q2 GDP sunk from 3.1% to 2%, and expectations for Q3 are lower still. The ISM points out that the contraction in August is the first sector-wide contraction in over three years, ending a 35-month period of expansion which had an average index reading of 56.5.

US President Donald Trump cast blame on the Federal Reserve, stating that Jerome Powell had fostered an overly strong dollar which has led to negative impacts on the economy.

Expert Outlook

Many market experts have made statements expressing their concern regarding the decline in manufacturing and the wider impact it may have on the economy.

“We have now tariffed our way into a manufacturing recession in the U.S. and globally,” said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group.

 “Global trade remains the most significant issue, as demonstrated by the contraction in new export orders that began in July 2019. Overall, sentiment this month remains cautious regarding near-term growth,” Timothy Fiore, ISM chair, said in a statement.

 “There is no end in sight to this slowdown, the recession risk is real,” Torsten Slok, chief economist at Deutsche Bank said in a note on Tuesday following the report.

“Purchasing managers are telling stock market investors to get out,” Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank, said in a note. “Run. Run for your life. Get out while you can. The outlook is darkening and the thunder is growing louder by the day.”

Market Reaction

The Dow Jones shed 200 points in light of the news, while gold prices have climbed from recent lows. Spot gold last traded at $1,485.33/oz, up 1.34% with a high of $1,486.20/oz and a low of $1,459.58/oz. It’s possible that the recent and significant escalation in civil unrest in Hong Kong during a major Chinese national holiday has supported the safe-haven use case for gold.