According to the ISM’s monthly report on business, the ISM index decreased to 51.3 in March from 54.2 in February.

Economists polled by Thomson Reuters predicted the index would slip to 54.0.

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 closely watched prices paid index decreased to 54.5 from 61.5. The employment index grew to 54.2 from 52.6 the prior month.

The production index decreased to 52.2 from 57.6, the new orders index fell to 51.4 from 57.8; the supplier deliveries index dipped to 49.4 from 51.4; the export orders index grew to 56.0 from 53.5; and the imports index remained at 54.0.

The inventories index fell to 49.5 from 51.5; the customers’ inventories index rose to 47.5 from 46.5; and backlog of orders dipped to 51.0 from 55.0.

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