CHICAGO Metalformers have
taken a rosier view on business conditions, with only 8 percent
of those surveyed in February projecting a downturn over the
next three months while half expect incoming orders to rise,
according to the Precision Metalforming Association.
"I hear peoplecustomers
and peerssaying orders are up, but I cant figure
out why," one East Coast metal stamper and parts builder said.
"We think some of our customers are seeing results of damage
from Hurricane Sandy" as electrical equipment and commercial
heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) manufacturers
repair and replace systems.
Although this work wont
appear as "a real surge" because payments on insurance claims
are spread out over time, "these companies are forecasting
increased demand, some of it storm-related," she said.
Forty percent of the 121 survey
respondents said their shipments have risen compared with three
months ago vs. 21 percent in January, while those expecting
shipments to fall below levels seen three months ago shrank to
23 percent from 41 percent in the same comparison.
Current shipments for one Ohio
River Valley stamper are up 5 percent from the same period last
year. "The order book is probably similar to last year, but
there is lots of quoting activity going on. It looks like this
year will be better," he said.
"Our backlog is six months," the
Ohio stamper said, noting that his companys three largest
customers are committed to a certain volume of material for the
rest of this year. "Those are set in stone, and it means a
2-percent increase in sales dollars."
Half of the metalformers
surveyed project an increase in incoming orders over the next
three months vs. 44 percent last month. Only 11 percent expect
a decline in orders vs. 25 percent in January.
"We are very optimistic about
this year," a New England stamper and tooling manufacturer told
AMM. "The potential is there if the economy stays
stable. We are forecasting 7 percent (sales) growth this year,
(but) I dont see us doing a lot of hiring."
Like the Ohio Valley stamper, he
has secured long-term pricing and quantities from steel
"The pricing is lower than last
year, and we have to pass the savings along to our customers,"
the New England stamper said. "But we can forecast our usage,
so the mills know us by name now."
The East Coast stamper said
things could loosen up if the government just ripped off the
bandage: Fix the debt problem, fix the economy. "Let the chips
fall where they may. Its cruel, but its real," she