The Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI) Foundation said that its Composite Business Outlook Index dropped from 71 in July to 67 in October. Despite the decline, manufacturing activity remained quite strong, with index readings over 50 indicating expansion. Indeed, the pace of new orders was unchanged (78) at a healthy rate of growth in the fourth quarter report, continuing to reflect improvements from six months ago (71).
Still, several of the key indicators eased in this survey. This included export orders (down from 67 to 65), the orders backlog (down from 72 to 69), prospective U.S. shipments (down from 87 to 83) and prospective foreign shipments (down from 76 to 72). Each of these readings, however, continues to reflect both strong growth.
In contrast, there were some areas of weakness to note. The percentage of respondents operating above 85 percent capacity dropped from 30.0 percent in July to 26.7 percent in October. Expected business investments also slowed considerably in this survey, with 2015 U.S. investment spending nearly just barely above 2014’s pace (down from 67 to 52) whereas foreign investment activity was expected to decline next year relative to this year (down from 64 to 48). On the other hand, the rate of R&D spending was expected to accelerate slightly (up from 67 to 70).
Overall, these data support the notion that manufacturing activity continues to improve, mirroring similar findings from other indicators. The MAPI Foundation has a generally upbeat outlook for the coming months. They predict that manufacturing production will increase by 3.4 percent and 4.0 percent in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.