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Talking Points

  • The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) was founded in 1915 and is the first supply management institute in the world.
  • Servicing 40,000 business professionals in more than 90 countries, ISM focuses on supply chain management.
  • Forex traders rely heavily on ISM’s release their Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) on the first business day of each month to gauge economic growth.

What is ISM?

A country’s economy is as strong as its supply chain. The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) measures the economic activity from both the manufacturing side as well as the service side. Formed in 1915, ISM is the first management institute in the world with over 40,000 members in 90 countries. Since it can draw from information gathered from the surveying its large membership of purchasing managers, the ISM economic news releases are carefully watched by Forex traders around the world as a reliable guide to economic activity.

How Forex News Traders Use ISM Numbers

ISM Surveys

ISM publishes three surveys; manufacturing, construction, and services. Published on the first business day of the month, the ISM Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) is compiled from surveys of 400 manufacturing purchasing managers. These purchasing managers from different sectors represent five different fields; inventories and employment, speed of supplier deliveries, production level, and new orders from customers.

In addition, ISM construction PMI is released on the second business day of the month, followed by services on the third business day. Forex traders will look to these releases to determine the risks at any given time in the market.

Forex Market Impact

The Manufacturing and Non-manufacturing PMI’s are big market movers. When these reports come out at 10:30 AM ET, currencies can become very volatile. Since these economic releases are based on the previous month’s historical data gathered directly from industry professionals, Forex traders can determine if the US economy is expanding or contracting.

Forex traders will compare the previous month’s number with the forecasted number that economists have published. If the released PMI number is better than the previous number and higher than the forecasted number, the US dollar tends to rally. This is where fundamental and technical analysis comes together to create a trade setup.

Learn Forex: EURUSD Drop on Better

How Forex News Traders Use ISM Numbers

(Created by Gregory McLeod)

In the example above, notice how the better than expected PMI number triggered a US dollar rally against the Euro. As seen in the chart above of the EURUSD, the ISM Non-Manufacturing was not only above 50 but at 55.4, beat the forecasts calling for a drop from 54.4 to 54.0.

When an economic release beats expectations, like in the example above, sharp fast moves can result. In this case, EURUSD dropped 22 pips in 15 minutes. Traders often choose the Euro as the “anti-dollar” to take advantage of capital flows between two of the largest economies.

The Euro zone has a large liquid capital markets which can absorb the huge waves of capital seeking refuge from the U.S. So a weak US ISM Non-Manufacturing number usually leads to a dollar sell-off and a rise in the Euro. Another scenario is when the number released is in line with forecasts and/or unchanged from the previous month, then the US dollar may not react at all to the number.

Overall, an ISM PMI number above 50 indicates that the economy is expanding and is healthy. However, a number below 50 indicates that the economy is weak and contracting. This number is so important that if the PMI is below 50 for two consecutive months, an economy is considered in recession.

PMI’s are also compiled for Euro zone countries by the Markit Group while US regional and national PMIs are compiled by ISM. As you can see, traders have good reason to pay special attention to the important releases from the Institute of Supply Management.

Next: What is NFP? (21 of 63)

Previous: How to Use PPI in Forex Trading

---Written by Gregory McLeod Trading Instructor