With a reading of 48.1, the Gardner Business Index showed that the moldmaking industry contracted in April after one month of growth. Since February, however, the index has been notably higher than it was in the second half of 2015.
New orders contracted for the first time since January, while production was unchanged after growing in March. The backlog index contracted at a somewhat faster rate than the previous two months, but was still notably higher than it was in the second half of 2015.
Employment increased for the second month in a row, and in these two months, the rate of increase was the fastest since June 2014. Exports contracted at their fastest rate since the survey began in December 2011. Supplier deliveries were unchanged after shortening in March.
The material prices index increased at an accelerating rate for the third month in a row, and in April this rate of increase was the fastest since November 2014. Prices received decreased for the seventh month in a row, and future business expectations fell to virtually their lowest level in the last three years.
For the third month in a row, companies with more than 250 employees expanded at a very strong rate, as did facilities with 50-99 employees for the fifth consecutive month. Plants with 100-249 employees contracted for the third time in four months, however, and companies with 20-49 contracted after three months of growth. Companies with fewer than 20 employees also continued to contract.
Custom processors expanded at an accelerating rate for the second month in a row, while metalcutting job shops contracted for the 11th time 12 months with a rate of contraction that has been accelerating for two months.
The North Central-West grew at the fastest rate for the second month in a row, and the only other region to expand was the Northeast, which grew for the first time since August. The Southeast contracted after growing the previous five months, the North Central-East contracted for the second month, and the West contracted for the seventh month. The South Central saw its index fall below 30.
Future capital spending plans were above average for the second time in four months, reaching their second highest level since November 2014. Compared with one year earlier, future capital spending plans increased 139 percent. This was the fourth time in five months that spending plans increased from one year earlier. This is a very positive sign that the industry is entering the next up cycle in capital equipment spending.