Gardner Business Index at 55.1 in May

US Composites index records its best reading in at least five years.

Registering 55.1 in May, the Gardner Business Index recorded its highest value for the US composites industry in more than five years. Underlying that headline number, the drivers of the overall Index through the end of May include Material Prices, Employment, Production and New Orders.

The Production, New Order and Employment components of the Composites index increased by 13%, 12%, and 7%, respectively, for the three-month period ending May 2017, using a 12/12 rate
 of change calculation. Production and New Orders are two of the most significant components of the Gardner Business Indices, and they suggest strength in the composites industry. A 12/12 ROC is calculated by summing the data for the most recent 12 months and then dividing that number by the sum of the values in the previous 12 months.

Conversely, the Exports and Material Prices components of the Index are damping further optimism. The Exports component,
which has in the past 12 months averaged a reading of just over 46, represents a weak spot in the Composites Index. Gardiner Business Intelligence (GBI) will be watching currency markets very closely in 2017 for many reasons, including the progression of Brexit, America’s changing stance on free trade and trade agreements, and the US government’s efforts to make markets more fair for American companies. Any and all of these political factors could generate unexpected shocks to currencies and, thus, to import and export dynamics and volumes.

The Material Prices and Prices Received index components, based on May 2017 data, indicate that input cost increases are being felt broadly and that manufacturers have yet to pass these costs on to their customers to the same degree. A comparison of the Material Prices and Prices Received index components, using a 12/12 ROC, reveals that the Material Price index has increased by more than 24% while the Prices Received index has only increased by 7%. Given the size of this gap, the Index might be signaling that the prices of finished composite components could rise in the future as Material Prices increases are passed downstream.

GBI’s view of the composites industry’s future is bright. A recent study by the Congressional Budget Office indicated that between 20 and 40% of future GDP growth in the US will come from workforce expansion, with the remaining 60 to 80% of growth coming from productivity gains.

This growth in productivity will result from the use of better, smarter and more capable machines, computers and other tools that enhance the abilities and expand the productivity of workers. As increasing wages and a limited labor supply begin to make themselves felt in the economy, equipment consumers should consider working closely with equipment manufacturers to find ways to meet their growth objectives. Now is truly an opportune time for those who use composites manufacturing equipment to collaborate with those who manufacture it, to create the next generation of technologies that will power composites industry growth in an ever-expanding number of markets.