The overall economy grew for the forty-seventh straight time, while the manufacturing sector expanded for the fifth month, the Institute for Supply Management reported Wednesday.
According to the ISM's monthly report on business, the ISM index slipped to 50.7 in April from 51.3 in March.
Economists polled by Thomson Reuters predicted the index would slip to 51.0.
An index reading below 50 signals a slowing economy, while a level above 50 suggests expansion. A reading of 50 shows the sector was unchanged in the month.
"The PMI registered 50.7 percent, a decrease of 0.6 percentage point from March's reading of 51.3 percent, indicating expansion in manufacturing for the fifth consecutive month, but at the lowest rate of the year," said Bradley Holcomb, chair of the Institute of Supply Management's manufacturing business survey committee. "The New Orders Index increased in April by 0.9 percentage point to 52.3 percent, and the Production Index increased by 1.3 percentage points to 53.5 percent. The Employment Index registered 50.2 percent, a decrease of 4 percentage points compared to March's reading of 54.2 percent. The Prices Index registered 50 percent, decreasing 4.5 percentage points from March, indicating that overall raw materials prices remained unchanged from last month. Comments from the panel indicate a range of strong/steady growth, to flat/declining volumes, depending upon the particular industry."
The closely watched prices paid index decreased to 50.0 from 54.5. The employment index slipped to 50.2 from 54.2 the prior month.
The production index increased to 53.5 from 52.2, the new orders index grew to 52.3 from 51.4; the supplier deliveries index rose to 50.9 from 49.4; the export orders index slid to 54.0 from 56.0; and the imports index rose to 55.0 from 54.0.
The inventories index fell to 46.5 from 49.5; the customers' inventories index dropped to 44.5 from 47.5; and backlog of orders gained to 53.0 from 51.0.
Respondents' comments included:
"Business can be described as flat at best." (Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products)
"Production is still strong; several new projects to support alternative energy." (Primary Metals)
"Slight uptick in business, but overall continuing slowdown in defense due to budget/sequester." (Computer & Electronic Products)
"We have concerns about safety of doing business in South Korea. Our largest customer and part owner is in South Korea." (Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components)
"Automotive demand remains firm." (Fabricated Metal Products)
"Business continues at a steady pace." (Machinery)
"General business conditions and industrial markets remain strong." (Transportation Equipment)
"Seasonal pick-up underway in the office furniture industry." (Furniture & Related Products)
"Market has slowed this month - weather in some parts of the country, also customers built inventory in anticipation of building increase, but the economy is still slow to pick up this spring." (Wood Products)
"Overall, volume is steady or slightly declining. Q1 sales volume is lower than projected." (Chemical Products)