Finishing Index: June 2016—48.6

Future capital spending plans increased for the sixth time in eight months.

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With a reading of 48.6, the Gardner Business Index showed that the finishing industry contracted for the 12th consecutive month. However, the index was virtually unchanged from last month and has improved steadily since October 2015, reaching its highest level since May 2015.

New orders contracted for the 12th month in a row, although the index has been fairly flat in 2016. The production index contracted for the seventh month in a row, and the backlog index remained mired in contraction. 

However, the index has improved significantly since October 2015. In May, the backlog index was at its highest level since February 2015. Employment increased for the second straight month. Despite the moderation in the value of the dollar, exports continued to contract. However, the rate of contraction in exports has decelerated significantly since the third quarter of 2015. Supplier deliveries lengthened for the fourth month in a row. 

The material prices index has skyrocketed since January. While the index did fall somewhat in June, the rate of increase remained near its peak level since July 2014. Prices received decreased after increasing for consecutive months. The future business expectations index declined for the third month in a row as expectations neared their lowest level in the last two years.

Plants with more than 250 employees expanded for the first time since March. Facilities with 100-249 employees expanded for the first time since January. Companies with 50-99 employees contracted for the second time in three months. Finishers with 20-49 employees grew for the third time in five months. However, finishers with fewer than 20 employees remained mired in contraction with just one month of growth since March 2015.

The Southeast was the fastest growing region for the third time in four months. It expanded at a very strong rate for the sixth month in a row. The Northeast expanded almost as fast as the Southeast and grew for the third time in four months. The West was flat, having grown two of the previous three months. The North Central-West contracted moderately while the North Central-East has contracted every month but one since October 2015. The South Central collapsed to an index of 20.8, easily its lowest level ever.

Future capital spending plans increased for the sixth time in eight months. Compared with one year ago, they increased 70 percent in June. Therefore, the annual rate of change was contracting at a significantly slower rate. This was a clear sign that the industry was entering its next capital equipment expansion.  

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