The ongoing tide of disappointing US economic statistics shows no sign of petering out, with a new survey revealing the first decline in the manufacturing sector for eight months.

A closely watched index of business activity from the Institute of Supply Management slipped from 50.5 in August to 49.5 in September, dropping below the 50.0 threshold between expansion and contraction for the first time since January. The reading was well down on analysts’ forecasts of 51.

It is feared that manufacturers may suffer further if consumers rein in spending over the coming months in light of concerns over employment and war.

However, one sector still doing a roaring trade is the auto industry, where preliminary statistics from Autodata show a 2.9% year-on-year rise in September vehicle sales to 1,224,475.

Among the big three US carmakers, Chrysler Group was the big winner with an 18% rise in sales, while Ford Motor Company saw a 5% fall. General Motors, however, came off worst, posting a 13% drop in sales and a 4.5% slide in market share to 25.2%.

The auto industry’s recent sales bonanza reflects the incentives war between the major manufacturers, which have been falling over themselves to offer rebates or low-cost financing. Indeed, GM responded to its September fall by expanding its 0%, 5-year finance deals to many of its 2003 models.

Among other auto firms, Volkswagen increased sales by 9.9%, BMW edged up 2%, Toyota Motor climbed 4.3%, Nissan Motor 9.7% and Honda Motor 16%.

Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff