A gauge of U.S. manufacturing unexpectedly jumped to the highest since May 2004 as orders, production and employment all picked up, even as companies contend with potential complications from trade tariffs, according to a report Tuesday.

Key Takeaways

The report shows factory demand is strengthening in the third quarter and adds to signals that the nearly decade-old expansion will hold up well in the second half of 2018. The rise in the employment gauge also suggests manufacturers may record another month of solid payroll gains in Labor Department figures due Friday.

At the same time, the gauges of exports and imports may indicate that months of intensifying tensions are taking a toll on trade. Negotiations with Canada to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement ended without a deal by Friday’s deadline, though talks are scheduled to resume Wednesday.

President Donald Trump wants to move ahead with tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports as soon as a public-comment period concludes Sept. 6, Bloomberg News reported last week, citing six people familiar with the matter.

Official’s Views

“The economy is continuing to power forward despite some of the other issues,” Timothy Fiore, chairman of the ISM manufacturing survey, said on a conference call Tuesday.

While the third quarter traditionally is when companies plan investment for the following year, Fiore said, some are likely hesitant to make major capital commitments when the economic cycle is in its later stages and faces headwinds from trade tariffs, a labor shortage and supply constraints. Some are already re-evaluating their manufacturing footprint and supply chain, he said.

Other Details

  • Gauge of employment climbed to six-month high of 58.5 from 56.5
  • Gauge of supplier deliveries rebounded to 64.5, near the highest since 2004, from 62.1; figure shows longer lead times as producers have more difficulty meeting demand
  • Index of factory order backlogs rose to 57.5 from 54.7
  • Gauge of prices paid for materials fell to 72.1, lowest since December, from 73.2
  • Sixteen of 18 manufacturing industries reported growth in August; wood products and primary metals saw contraction, ISM said in a statement