Service industries probably grew in March at close to the fastest pace in more than five years, an indication the U.S. economic expansion is broadening beyond manufacturing, economists said before a report today.
The median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey for the Institute for Supply Management’s non-manufacturing gauge is 59.5 after a 59.7 reading in February that was the highest since August 2005. A figure above 50 signals growth for the Tempe, Arizona-based ISM’s measure.
Accelerating job growth may help sustain household spending, which faces headwinds from higher food and fuel bills. Federal Reserve officials said last month the economy is on “firmer footing,” diminishing the need to extend a bond purchase program beyond June.
“The economy is expanding, albeit slowly, but in a steady sort of way,” said Guy LeBas, chief fixed-income strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott LLC in Philadelphia. “I would expect the ISM services index to continue a little bit higher than its current level and then stabilize in the low 60s area” in coming months, he said.
The ISM report is due at 10 a.m. New York time. The 68 estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 57.7 to 61.
The supply managers’ group reported on April 1 that its manufacturing index expanded last month at close to the fastest pace in almost seven years.
The factory gauge was little changed at 61.2 after a February reading of 61.4 as production rose to the highest level since January 2004. The strength in the industry is generating greater demand for services, which account for almost 90 percent of the economy, benefiting companies like FedEx Corp.
Memphis-based FedEx, which operates the world’s biggest cargo airline, said March 17 that its per-share earnings for the fiscal fourth quarter ending May 31 will be $1.66 to $1.83 a share.
“Our businesses are performing strongly in the United States, where industrial production growth is expected to approach nearly 5 percent in 2011, outpacing GDP and supporting overall transportation volumes,” Fred Smith, chief executive officer of FedEx, said in a teleconference.
The Standard & Poor’s Supercomposite Transportation Index, which includes companies like Union Pacific and FedEx, has increased 23 percent in the last 12 months, compared with a 12 percent gain in the broader S&P 500 Index.
The economic expansion is extending to smaller businesses. Matt Ziegler, president of ZMac Transportation LLC, said demand to move mining equipment and parts of vessels this year is bucking the annual trend.
“The first few months of the year were always challenging,” Ziegler, who’s been in the freight-logistics business for about 12 years, said from his company’s offices in Racine, Wisconsin. “Historically, January and February are slow months. This year, it’s not that way at all. We’ve got a lot more positive reception to our sales calls in the last few months than we have in past years.”
The U.S. economy added more jobs than forecast in March and the unemployment rate unexpectedly declined to a two-year low of 8.8 percent, an indication that the labor-market recovery is strengthening, Labor Department figures showed April 1.
Payrolls increased by 216,000 workers in March after a 194,000 gain the prior month. Economists projected a March gain of 190,000, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey. Service providers added 185,000 workers last month, the most since May 2010.
Higher Food, Fuel
Employment gains may help Americans dealing with higher food and gasoline prices. The average cost of a gallon of regular-grade fuel reached $3.66 on April 3, the highest since September 2008, according to AAA.
The Fed, after its latest policy meeting March 15, pledged to continue its program of purchasing $600 billion of bonds before the second half of the year, in order to “promote a stronger pace of economic recovery.” Fed officials also said the economy was on “firmer footing” and acknowledged a rise in commodity prices, signaling deflation risk had diminished and they were unlikely to expand the bond purchase plan.
The Fed will release minutes of the March meeting today at 2 p.m. in Washington.
Bloomberg Survey ================================== ISM Non- Manu Index ================================== Date of Release 04/05 Observation Period March ---------------------------------- Median 59.5 Average 59.5 High Forecast 61.0 Low Forecast 57.7 Number of Participants 68 Previous 59.7 ---------------------------------- 4CAST Ltd. 58.9 ABN Amro 59.0 Action Economics 60.0 Aletti Gestielle 60.0 Ameriprise Financial 60.5 Banesto 60.0 Bank of Tokyo- Mitsubishi 60.2 Bantleon Bank AG 60.2 Barclays Capital 61.0 Bayerische Landesbank 59.5 BBVA 59.5 BMO Capital Markets 59.5 BNP Paribas 60.5 BofA Merrill Lynch 60.5 Briefing.com 59.0 Capital Economics 59.0 Citi 58.0 Commerzbank AG 59.5 Credit Suisse 58.5 Daiwa Securities America 59.5 Danske Bank 58.7 DekaBank 59.5 Desjardins Group 58.5 Deutsche Bank Securities 60.0 Deutsche Postbank AG 59.4 Fact & Opinion Economics 60.2 First Trust Advisors 60.0 FTN Financial 58.5 Goldman, Sachs 59.0 Helaba 58.0 HSBC Markets 60.0 Hugh Johnson Advisors 60.0 IDEAglobal 60.0 Informa Global Markets 60.2 ING Financial Markets 59.5 Insight Economics 60.0 Intesa-SanPaulo 60.1 J.P. Morgan Chase 59.0 Janney Montgomery Scott 59.3 Jefferies & Co. 61.0 Landesbank Berlin 58.2 MF Global 59.0 Moody’s Analytics 59.0 National Bank Financial 60.0 Natixis 61.0 Nomura Securities 60.0 Nord/LB 59.7 OSK Group/DMG 58.8 Parthenon Group 58.4 Pierpont Securities 60.0 PineBridge Investments 58.0 PNC Bank 59.0 Prestige Economics 60.0 Raymond James 59.5 RBC Capital Markets 58.7 RBS Securities 59.5 Scotia Capital 59.0 Societe Generale 60.3 Standard Chartered 61.0 State Street Global Markets 60.3 Stone & McCarthy Research 57.7 TD Securities 61.0 UBS 59.0 UniCredit Research 59.0 University of Maryland 59.9 Wells Fargo 60.0 WestLB AG 60.0 Wrightson ICAP 59.0 ==================================