In the US, the ADP employment report continued to surprise on the upside of expectations in December. According to the ADP report, private employment rose by 325 000 in December, up from 204 000 in November, and sharply above the consensus estimate of 178 000. This is this largest monthly increase in the 11-year history of the survey. The details show that strength is broad-based as employment picked up in small (148 000 from 109 000), medium-size (140 000 from 84 000) and large (37 000 from 11 000) firms. Also sector data confirm that the improvement was widespread with a pick-up in both goods-producing (52 000 from 28 000) and service-providing (273 000 from 176 000). The outcome is however questionable. First of all, due to the changed methodology, the ADP report partly captures the development in the claims. And besides that, they also warned that the surge might have been caused in part by year-end seasonal factors and revisions were possible. We are therefore cautious to draw strong conclusions from this report for the official BLS report today.
The US non-manufacturing ISM improved slightly in December, but less than expected. The headline index rose from 52.0 to 52.6, while the consensus was looking for an increase to 53.0. The details are mixed as business activity (unchanged at 56.2) and new orders (53.2 from 53.0) stayed broadly unchanged, while employment improved only slightly (49.4 from 48.9). Imports (54.0 from 48.5) and supplier deliveries (51.5 from 50.0) picked up, but backlog of orders (45.5 from 48.0), inventory change (48.5 from 52.5), inventory sentiment (59.5 from 63.0) and new export orders (51.0 from 55.5) weakened. Prices paid eased slightly from 62.5 to 61.2. Overall however, the US non-manufacturing ISM extended its sideways trend around the 53 level. This level is consistent with modest growth, but it is
somewhat disappointing that the non-manufacturing ISM is in a longer perspective stabilizing, while the economic climate seems to have improved somewhat of late.