Gardner Business Index at 49.4 in November

The overall Index showed double-digit growth for a third month in succession as future business expectations skyrocketed.

With a reading of 49.4, the Gardner Business Index showed that the US composites industry contracted at a minimal rate for the second month in
a row. This was after two months of growth in August and September. The Index compares the current month’s business conditions to the previous month. However, when we compare the November 2016 Index to the same month one year earlier, we see that the composites Index has increased four months in a row, with the last three months seeing double-digit growth. This is a positive sign for the composites industry in 2017.

The new orders subindex contracted
 moderately in November for the second
  consecutive month. Despite this small dip
 in new orders, production grew at a strong 
rate for the fourth month in a row. With production growing and new orders contracting, the backlog subindex contracted at an accelerating rate for the second month in a row. But, compared with one year earlier, the backlog subindex has increased at a very fast rate for five months. This indicates increased capacity utilization for composite part manufacturers. Employment increased for the fourth straight month. Exports continued to contract. They had grown, as November closed out, in only one month since January 2015. Supplier deliveries lengthened in November for the third time in four months.

Material prices continued to increase in November. However, this subindex had been at a consistent level since April, which indicates that material prices were increasing at a constant rate. Prices received increased for the second time in four months. These were the first two months of price increases since August 2015.

Future business expectations skyrocketed in November — this subindex jumped more than 10 points to 77.2, reaching its highest level since February 2015. Among the markets served by the US composites industry, the prominent aerospace industry’s subindex grew in November for the third time in five months. The equally important automotive market’s subindex, however, contracted for the third month in a row. It had grown in only one month since October 2015. Meanwhile, the ship/boatbuilding subindex, in November, showed significant growth for three straight months. Other manufacturing, which includes miscellaneous consumer goods, contracted in seven of the previous eight months.

Regionally, the US North Central-East was the fastest growing in November. It had grown for four straight months. The West, which had grown three of the previous four months, was the only other region to grow in November.

US-based composites manufacturing facilities with more than 250 employees grew in November for the first time since August 2016. Plants with 100-249 employees, as November closed out, showed strong growth for four months. Manufacturers with 50-99 employees contracted for the first time since June 2016. Those with 20-49 employees contracted for the second month in a row, while fabricators with less than 20 employees contracted for the third month in a row.