CHICAGO Although members
of the Precision Metalforming Association (PMA) reported
slightly weaker average daily shipments in early January
compared with a month earlier, their expectations about
incoming order rates and first-quarter economic activity have
A little more than 20 percent of
PMA members said their average daily shipments are higher than
they were three months ago, a decline of seven percentage
points from December, while members seeing below-average
shipments fell to 41 percent from 43 percent.
Metalformers speaking with
AMM Jan. 15 suggested that the national election
results and the fiscal cliff skirmishing may have cast a pall
over business. Customers still arent pulling the trigger
on capital investment, so outside of the automotive supply
chain, sales are a bit sluggish.
"I would categorize shipment and
sales activity as slow," a source at a Kentucky-based wire
drawer said. "Some are busier than others. The automotive
market is still busy. Overall, (sales and shipments) are not
terrible, but they are below what we consider average."
His business began to slow down
in October. "We thought it was because people were apprehensive
about the election, but it hasnt come back yet," he said.
"Im not injecting a red-and-blue argument here, but I
dont think business was happy with the outcome. I call on
people, and I hear a lot of that."
An Ohio-based metalformer
executive agreed. "We see business as stable," he said.
"Its not growing (and) its not shrinking, pending
the resolution of issues in Washington."
A source at an East Coast
stamper said that customers have provided all sorts of reasons
for not sustaining orders at the same pace as a year ago. "They
say its requirements-driven or inventory adjustments or
schedule changes," he said.
But those who supply the auto
market are seeing demand for automotive stampings, parts and
subassemblies approach pre-recession levels.
"I guess people went so long
driving their same old car that there is a lot of pent-up
demand," the wire mill source said. In addition, manufacturers
"freaked out about the (2011 Japanese) earthquake, and that
brought even more business to the U.S."
Some 32 percent of the 131
member companies responding to the PMAs January survey
predicted that the economy will improve in the first quarter,
up from 22 percent in December, while the number forecasting an
economic downturn fell to 18 percent from 29 percent.
Meanwhile, 44 percent of
respondents said that incoming orders will increase this
quarter, up from 33 percent last month, and the proportion of
those predicting a decrease slipped to 25 percent from 28