The latest data from our Mold Business Index (MBI) survey indicates that activity levels in the mold industry slipped again. But so far the decline has not been as severe as the drops in other segments of the manufacturing sector. The U.S. economy is in a recession, as most indicators of overall business activity in the fourth quarter are down sharply. U.S. economic growth will be negative for the remainder of the year, and we have pushed our forecast for the cyclical low-point to occur in the second quarter of 2009. This means that the fundamentals for moldmakers and other durable goods manufacturers will improve during the second half of next year.
The MBI for October is 47.2. This is a 0.5-percentage point increase from the September value of 46.7. The Export Orders and Backlog components registered steady readings, while declines were reported in the other sub-indices. The prices paid for steel and resins peaked in recent weeks, so we expect the downtrend in the Materials Prices component to continue for the next few months. The Future Expectations component dropped to 54.2.
The sub-index for New Orders of molds was 47.9 in October, indicating that new business levels were moderately lower for the month. Production levels were substantially lower for the month, as the latest Production sub-index was 37.5. The sharp drop in Production resulted in a small rise in the industry’s backlogs, as the Backlog component was 52.1 in October.
Our Injection Molding Business Index (a measure of production levels for injection molders) plummeted 16 percent in the third quarter of 2008 when compared with the previous year. This followed a drop of 4 percent in the second quarter. A decline in demand for injection molded products is forecast for the fourth quarter of 2008 and at least the first quarter of 2009. Consistent gains in the Mold Business Index depend on sustained growth of 4 to 5 percent in the output of injection molded products. The trend in the mold making industry lags the trend in the processing sector by about six months.