US recession risks up as services growth hits three-year low
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — U.S. services sector activity slowed to a three-year low in September amid rising concerns about tariffs, suggesting that trade tensions were spilling over to the broader economy.
Coming on the heels of news this week that manufacturing activity plunged to a more than 10-year trough in September, the survey from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) on Thursday increased the risks of a recession. For now, a solid labor market is keeping the economy on a moderate growth path.
The raft of weak data could prompt the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates again this month to keep the longest economic expansion in history, now in its 11th year, on track. The U.S. central bank cut rates last month after reducing borrowing costs in July for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis.
“This downturn is starting to spread and that means the tea leaf readers at the Fed are going to be teeing up a third rate cut this year when they next meet again at the end of this month,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York.
The ISM said its non-manufacturing activity index fell to a reading of 52.6 in September, the lowest since August 2016, from 56.4 in August. A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the services sector, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the index falling to 55.1 in September.
The ISM reported on Tuesday that its measure of national manufacturing activity plunged in September to its lowest level since June 2009, when the Great Recession was ending.
It said services industry businesses “are mostly concerned about tariffs, labor resources and the direction of the economy.” The ISM said 13 industries, including public administration, and finance and insurance, reported growth last month. Educational services and other services reported a contraction.