Going into Monday, June 3, the consensus on Wall Street was that if the Institute for Supply Management’s Purchasing Managers Index for manufacturing fell more than expected, U.S. stocks would follow in a rout. A lower than expected reading on the index would amplify worries that growth in the the U.S. economy was slowing and that the Trump administration’s trade war were taking a bite out of U.S. economic growth.
Well, surprise! The ISM Purchasing Managers Index for the manufacturing sector,, reported this morning, fell to 52.1 in May from 52.8 in April. That was well below the 53 reading expected by economists surveyed by Bloomberg.
But the U.S. market didn’t crater, collapse, or plunge. Today, June 3, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell a surprisingly small 0.28%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average managed a small gain of 0.02%. And the Russell 2000 small cap index gained 0.31%.
The big exception was the NASDAQ Composite index where big declines in Amazon (AMZN), Alphabet (GOOG), and Microsoft (MSFT), Apple (AAPL) and Facebook (FB) led the technology heavy index to a los of 1.61% at the close on a combination of worries that China might move to restrict (or further restrict) those companies access to the domestic Chinese market.
The 52.1 reading on the May PMI for May kept that index above the 50 level that separates expansion from contraction. But the trend is decidedly negative. Not only is the manufacturing PMI at the lowest level since 2016, but the decline in the index has been extremely rapid. The manufacturing PMI hit a 14-year high just last August. Although it’s important not to over-emphasize the importance of this index, since it is based on a survey of sentiment by purchasing managers on the trends in the economy that can over-react to short-term events such as the Trump administration’s tariff moves, I think the downward trend does capture a rising mood of uncertainty among corporate managers that is likely to influence decisions on hiring and equipment purchases.
The plunge in technology stocks–Facebook, for example, fell 7.51% today–is a reaction to both China uncertainty and to moves by U.S. regulators to open investigations on multiple fronts into Alphabet and Facebook with the assumption that the investigations launched so far aren’t by any means the last that will be opened. (More on these investigations in a post tonight.)