Click Image to Enlarge
The growth rate in the U.S. economy slowed substantially in the fourth quarter of 2012, and this was reflected in the performance of our MoldMaking Business Index. The economic data so far in 2013 indicates that economic activity perked up in recent weeks. There will still be some fluctuations in the monthly data in the first half of 2013 that result from one-time events such as the recovery from Hurricane Sandy and the ongoing drama in Washington concerning the federal budget deficit. But the underlying economic fundamentals in the U.S. continue to make slow, steady improvement. The auto sector is off to a strong start this year, and the residential construction and real estate sectors are well into full-recovery phase. By the second half of this year, this momentum will be evident in the lagging indicators such as the employment and personal income data.
For the third straight month, a survey of the North American moldmaking industry indicates that overall activity levels continue to decline modestly. The MoldMaking Business Index for January 2013 is 49.8 (a value under 50.0 indicates a decrease in business levels for the month). The latest index value is a 6.2-point increase from the December value of 43.6, but it is a 3.0-point decrease from the 52.8 registered in January 2012.
Despite the slight overall decline in the headline index, the underlying data are mostly positive. A rise was reported in the crucial New Orders category for the first time in the past six months, and the Production category also posted a gain. Supply conditions, as measured by the Supplier Delivery Times and Materials Prices components, were the main negative factors in the index this month--supplier delivery times were longer and there was another rise in materials prices. Prices Received were steady-to-firmer, though the trend in prices received are not keeping pace with the gains in costs for materials. Future Expectations are more optimistic.
The New Orders component rebounded to a heartening 54.9 in the latest month. It is too early to tell if this gain in orders is a one-time bump in response to the resolution of the fiscal cliff debacle, or if it is the start of a sustained trend upward. This gain in new orders meant that the recent slide in Backlogs slowed substantially. The Backlog sub-index is 43.8 for January. The Production sub-index of 52.1 is significantly better than the previous month. The Employment component is 51.0, which means that payrolls were steady-to-higher this month.
The prices received in the moldmaking sector halted a downward trend. The Prices Received sub-index for January is 51.7. The sub-index for Materials Prices jumped up this month to 67.4. Supplier Delivery Times are getting longer, and this component escalated to 52.1 in January. There was another decline in offshore orders last month, as the Exports sub-index is 45.1.
The MoldMaking Business Index is based on a monthly survey of subscribers to MoldMaking Technology magazine. Using the data from this survey, Gardner Research calculates a diffusion index based on 50.0. A value above 50.0 for the index indicates that business activity expanded when compared with the previous month, and a value below 50.0 means that business levels declined.
Since this is the month of our annual directory issue, we thought it would be interesting to offer a...