Most economists are big fans of the manufacturing surveys, both national (e.g. ISM, Markit) and regional (e.g. Philly Fed, Chicago PMI, etc.).
However, all of these surveys are conducted during varying, very short periods each month, which makes it even more difficult to draw any sweeping conclusions about the economy.
Considering the harsh and volatile winter weather this year, survey timing is an important consideration for anyone who takes this data seriously.
Goldman Sachs’ Kris Dawsey charted the rough survey periods and release dates of all of the widely followed U.S. manufacturing indices.
“The timeliest reports on activity are the Empire manufacturing survey (covering New York State), the Philly Fed index, and the preliminary Markit PMI, all typically released by the middle of the survey’s reference month,” said Dawsey. “The ISM manufacturing index and final Markit PMI include more complete coverage of the month, but are released at the start of the next month. These surveys differ along many dimensions, including (1) regional coverage, (2) available time series history, (3) the survey period within the month, (4) whether the headline series is an aggregate of the subcomponents or derived independently, and (5) the reporting convention (i.e. unchanged activity is represented by a value of 50 vs. a value of 0).”