WASHINGTON — U.S. manufacturing activity accelerated to more than a 14-year high in August, boosted by a surge in new orders, but increasing bottlenecks in the supply chain because of a robust economy and import tariffs could restrain further growth.
The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) survey was at odds with another survey published on Tuesday that suggested a peak in manufacturing and pointed to a slowdown in the months ahead against the backdrop of a strong dollar. Recent surveys have also signaled a cooling in regional factory activity.
“The surge in the ISM manufacturing index is difficult to square with other evidence, which indicate that growth in the factory sector has started to slow,” said Michael Pearce, a senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics in New York.
“With export orders now waning as a result of the dollar’s rapid appreciation over the past few months, we still think that growth in the factory sector will slow in the coming quarters.
The ISM said its index of national factory activity jumped to 61.3 last month, the best reading since May 2004, from 58.1 in July. A reading above 50 indicates growth in manufacturing, which accounts for about 12 percent of the U.S. economy.
The ISM described demand as remaining “robust,” but cautioned that “the nation’s employment resources and supply chains continue to struggle.” According to the ISM, survey respondents were “again overwhelmingly concerned about tariff-related activity, including how reciprocal tariffs will impact company revenue and current manufacturing locations.”
President Donald Trump’s “America First” trade policy has led to an escalating trade war with China and tit-for-tat import tariffs with other trading partners, including the European Union, Canada and Mexico.
Trump has defended the duties on steel and aluminum imports and a range of Chinese goods as necessary to protect American industries from what he says is unfair foreign competition.