The Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index bumped up 1.1% to 54.9 for March, according to a Markit report [link opens a PDF] released today.
An above-50 reading denotes positive change from the previous month, and the most recent reading is "consistent with a solid rate of growth," according to the report. The "flash" estimate is typically based on approximately 85% to 90% of total PMI survey responses each month and is designed to provide an accurate advance indication of the final PMI data.
These newest numbers fell just below market expectations of a 55.0 reading. According to Markit, this month's results put manufacturing growth at the second-fastest pace in almost a year. Chief Economist Chris Williamson was quoted as saying:
Manufacturers reported a reassuringly strong upturn in business conditions in March, adding to evidence that the U.S. has enjoyed a solid upturn in economic growth so far this year. With manufacturing a reliable bellwether of the rest of the economy, gross domestic product will have risen at a much improved rate compared with the moribund 0.1% annualized pace of expansion seen in the final quarter of last year.
The index is made up of 11 different components, nine of which improved over February's readings. Output clocked in at 56.8, with new orders' 55.9 and input prices' 55.2 close behind. Backlogs of work, new export orders, and stocks of purchases all expanded in March after contracting in February.
While this seemingly signifies high demand, suppliers remain skeptical. Stocks of finished goods fell to 49.4 after improving in February, while suppliers' delivery times continue to bring up the rear at 46.6.