The overall economy grew for the 103rd straight time, the Institute for Supply Management reported Wednesday.

According to the ISM's monthly report on business, the ISM index increased to 59.7 in December from 58.2 in November.

Economists polled by IFR Markets predicted the index would be 58.2.

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 prices paid index increased to 69.0 from 65.5. The employment index fell to 57.0 from 59.7.

The production index climbed to 65.8 from 63.9, the new orders index gained to 69.4 from 64.0; the supplier deliveries index rose to 57.9 from 56.5; the export orders index grew to 58.5 from 56.0; and the imports index rose to 57.5 from 54.5.

The inventories index climbed to 48.5 from 47.0; the customers' inventories index slid to 42.0 from 45.5; and backlog of orders gained to 56.0 from 55.0.

Respondents' comments included:

  • “Our business is moving higher into the new year. Increased sales are resulting in increased purchases of CapEx and raw materials.” (Chemical Products)
  • “Strong international sales — Europe and Australia — versus last two years. U.S. sales continue to grow. Seeing commodity pricing pressures.” (Machinery)
  • “We are seeing a ramp-up with companies releasing early 2018 spend now.” (Computer & Electronic Products)
  • “Business conditions are good; we are tracking well to our projections for the year.” (Miscellaneous Manufacturing)
  • “First quarter 2018 probably will be better than the fourth quarter 2017.” (Fabricated Metal Products)
  • “Domestic and international sales on the rise.” (Transportation Equipment)
  • “Economy [is] strong and business is strong, yet signals of headwinds in 2018 are persistent.” (Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products)
  • “All suppliers are reporting strong business activity and difficulties obtaining qualified employees.” (Paper Products)
  • “Demand at this time is strong in the construction part of our business. I think it is due to the impact of the hurricanes and the rebuild and new construction that is required.” (Plastics & Rubber Products)

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