Growth slowed this month in the Chicago economy but from unsustainably high rates of growth in November and October. The Chicago PMI slowed to 59.1 vs 63.0 and 65.9 in the two prior months. Aside from November and October, the December reading is the best since March last year.

Order growth is strong but did slow with new orders at 60.7, down from 68.8 and 74.3 in the two prior months but still above September’s 58.9. This are all very strong rates of monthly growth for new orders which have been on the plus 50 side to show growth every month since November last year. And backlog orders are piling up, at 58.3 for a 3rd straight monthly build.

Employment is a special weakness in the December report, at 51.6 and not much above 50 to signal only modest monthly growth. This is the softest reading for this index since April.

Other readings include a strong though slowing rate of production, steady and moderate price pressures for raw materials, and a sharp slowing in deliveries that may point to the emergence of capacity constraints in the supply chain. In a plus, inventories, where high levels are a concern for the 4th quarter, fell sharply in the month.

This report, which covers all areas of the Chicago economy, points to another month of solid mid-50s growth for the coming ISM reports on manufacturing and non-manufacturing. The Dow is moving off opening highs following today’s report.