CHICAGO Metal stampers,
fabricators and roll formers have backed away slightly from a
negative assessment of future economic activity.
Well under one-third (29
percent) of 126 member companies surveyed by the Precision
Metalforming Association (PMA) now predict general economic
activity will dip over the next three months, down from 36
percent who forecast a downturn when surveyed in November.
Almost half (49 percent) forecast a stable economic environment
compared with last months 45 percent, and 22 percent see
an upswing ahead vs. 19 percent in November.
The less bearish outlook comes
at a time when companies say their order books are firming.
"We received quite a bit of new
business this year. We are up about 45 percent for the year,"
the national sales manager for a Great Lakes deep draw stamper
said, attributing this boost to a plant expansion and the
installation of new presses, among other factors. His company
delivers finished parts to the agricultural, construction, and
lawn and garden equipment markets.
The new machinery is already
full and the company might have to add a second shift next
year, he said. "Were actually trying to slow down a
little and will be happy with 10- to 15-percent growth next
year," the stamper said.
A North American manufacturer of
metal fasteners that are sold direct to automakers and their
Tier II suppliers said his company is also doing better than
"Our business is still up for
the end of December and into January, higher than last year. We
are Tier I to (General Motors Co.), Chrysler (Group LLC) and
(Volkswagen AG), and Tier II to most of the rest of the world,
and there are some new programs," he said. "Everybody is
worried about the fiscal cliff and are asking if orders are
slowing down. Everyone is unsettled by the perception that
things are really screwed up, but theyre not."
The top executive at a company
in the mid-South that performs metal stamping and tube
end-forming agreed. "Things may be better than people expect,"
There is "an awful lot of money
out there on the sidelines," and once certain macroeconomic
certainties are settled, "it could move very quickly." Yet the
current uncertainty is "overwhelming, so we are cautious about
our costs," he added.
While a 5-point gain was
registered in the number of metalformers stating that their
average daily shipments had dropped in December compared with
the prior three months (43 percent in December compared with 38
percent in November), a 5-point increase was also seen in the
number of survey respondents projecting an increase in incoming
orders over the next three months (33 percent in December vs. a
month-earlier 28 percent).
Meanwhile, the Great Lakes stamper said he expects stable
pricing for carbon steel products during the first quarter.
"(Mills) are talking about a small increase, but they (his
purchasing people) dont think that will hold throughout
the first quarter," he said.