Skip to main content


Want evidence of a market suffering from economic-surprise fatigue? Just check out Monday morning's response to the Institute for Supply Management's service-sector index.

The ISM's index, considered a key indicator of U.S. economic activity outside the manufacturing sector, posted a better-than-expected 57.3 for February, up from 56.8 in January. Anything above a 50 signifies growth; a number in the high 50s indicates impressive acceleration indeed. And the service sector makes up more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy, to boot.

And what did U.S. stocks do? They got mildly amused. For about 10 minutes. And then they forgot all about it, and headed south.

Story continues below advertisement

The Dow Jones industrial average gained about 25 points on the news, but within 15 minutes of that high it shed almost 100 points. The S&P 500 followed a similar pattern.

What seems to be the problem? Well, it looks like the markets are more nervous about Greece's bond exchange and China's slowing economy than they are happy about another positive economic surprise out of the United States. Shaky news on both fronts seems to have undermined stocks Monday morning.

Maybe the markets have simply become blase about U.S. economic news. The services ISM is just another in a string of indicators in recent weeks that have shown an improving economic tone; one more on the pile doesn't have much effect anymore.

Report an error
About the Author
Economics Reporter

David Parkinson has been covering business and financial markets since 1990, and has been with The Globe and Mail since 2000. A Calgary native, he received a Southam Fellowship from the University of Toronto in 1999-2000, studying international political economics. More

Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.