Gardner Business Index: January 2017
Finishing industry expands for the first time since June 2015.
With a reading of 54.7, the Gardner Business Index showed that the finishing industry expanded for the first time since June 2015. In January, the industry grew at its fastest rate since June 2014 and the index has shown consistent improvement since July 2016.
After 18 months of contraction, new orders grew significantly and grew at the fastest rate since May 2012. The production index had mostly contracted since July 2015 but shot up in January, reaching its highest level since March 2015 and its second highest level since May 2012. The backlog index grew for the first time since April 2014, growing at its fastest rate since May 2012, indicating capacity utilization should continue to increase in 2017. Employment increased for the third month in a row. Exports continue to contract and did so at a noticeably faster rate in January. Supplier deliveries continue to lengthen.
After accelerating increases in the last two months, material prices increased at a slightly slower rate in January. However, material prices were still increasing at the fastest rate since mid-2014. Fortunately, prices received increased for the second month in a row at the fastest rate since January 2014. After a huge surge in November—after the election followed by a slight increase in December—future business expectations dipped slightly. However, since November 2016, the future business expectations index was at its highest level ever recorded in the survey.
The automotive index increased significantly for the third time in four months. The forming and fabricating industry grew for the second month in a row. Aerospace remains strong as the index grew for the fourth time in five months.
The Northeast was the fastest growing region in January, growing for the first time since June 2016. The North Central-East and North Central-West both experienced strong growth and grew for the first time in several months. The Southeast has grown every month but one since January last year. The South-Central region grew for the second month in a row while the West unfortunately contracted for the third straight month.
Plants with more than 250 employees expanded for the third time in four months and those with 100-249 employees grew significantly for the second month in a row. Companies with 50-99 employees expanded for the fifth time in six months. Finishers with 20-49 employees grew for the first time since June as the index reached its highest level since the survey began in December 2011. Finishers with fewer than 20 employees grew for the first time since June 2015.
Originally published in the March 2017 issue.
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