GBI: Moldmaking for March 2017 — 54.7

Fast growth continues, although at a decelerated rate.

With a reading of 54.7, the Gardner Business Index showed that the moldmaking industry grew in March for the seventh time in eight months, although this was the first time in five months that the rate of growth decelerated. Even so, the last time the rate of growth was this fast was three years ago. 

New orders increased for the third month in a row, growing at a slightly slower rate than in February. Since September 2015, there have been quite a few peaks and valleys in production, but the overall trend in the production index continued to climb for the fifth month in a row. The backlog index grew for the third month in a row, clearly indicating increasing capacity utilization in 2017. Employment increased for the fifth straight month, while exports contracted for the third month in a row. Supplier deliveries lengthened at their fastest rate since May 2015. 

Material prices have increased at an accelerating rate since July, but in March, their rate of increase decelerated slightly. It was still near its all-time peak, however. Prices received increased at a significant rate for the fifth time in seven months, and future business expectations remained quite strong with the index hovering around 80 for the fifth consecutive month. 

Job shops expanded in March for the sixth time in seven months. Their rate of growth decelerated somewhat from February, but it was still the second-fastest rate of growth since November 2014. Custom processors have grown every month but two since March 2016, recording very strong growth in the first three months of 2017. 

While the number of survey responses has been limited, the South Central geographic region has shown fantastic growth since November 2016, growing the fastest of all areas of the country in March. Its index of 72.2 was higher than that of the North Central-West, which posted an index of 62.9. The Southeast also grew at a very fast rate, while the North Central-East showed very mild growth. Both the Northeast and the West regions contracted in the month. 

Plants with more than 250 employees have grown at a very strong rate every month but two since February 2016. Their index was higher than 60 for the second consecutive month. Facilities with 100-249 employees grew for the third straight month, and those with 50-99 employees expanded for the fourth month in a row, posting an index more than 60 for the first time since December 2011. Shops with 20-49 employees expanded for the sixth time in eight months, and those with fewer than 20 employees expanded for the seventh time in eight months.

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