Metals & Manufacturing Outlook Newsletter

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Metals & Manufacturing Outlook – Oct 2014

II. North American Perspective
III. U.S. Forging Industry
IV. Manufacturing Talk Radio
V. Euro-Zone
VI. Asia Outlook
VII. South America
IX. A Final Word

Publisher’s Statement

Dear Readers:

The economy continues to expand, with the last two quarters above 4% on an annualized basis. Although this feels good at the moment, it is difficult to tell how it compares to prior periods, depending on when you measure GDP over what periods using what comparisons. However, what we can see is that we are out of the Great Recession and appear to be heading into the next economic upturn, and many of the fits and starts of 2010-2013 are occurring less frequently; albeit, the most recent one was Q1 2014.

The real key is underlying strength in the economy, which seems to be solidifying. Pent up demand for goods like new cars is propelling that industry where the average age of cars on the road was over 11 years recently. Prices of existing homes are recovering as housing starts, up here and there, lag demand.

Capital investment appears to be leaning towards growth from a long maintenance mode, with some positives and some negatives depending upon the industry. So, on average, the economy continues to gain strength and business opportunities continue to improve overall with some pockets of resistance in a few industries. This should be overcome as the economy moves forward into 2015.

Suffice it to say that, at the moment, no one is talking about a downturn. The general consensus is cautious optimism with bright spots of occasional enthusiasm for the balance of 2014 and 2015. Does anyone dare prognosticate 2016-18? At present, those long-range projections are favorable if you ignore the postulators of doom who are advertising their books of bust online.

We think the smart money is on growth. Enjoy this month’s read of Metals & MFG Outlook and draw your own conclusions.

Best regards,
Lew Weiss
Comments to Publisher:


ManufacturingThe PMI figure from the Institute of Supply Management was at 56.6 percent in September, a reading 6.6 points above 50, an indication that the economy continued to expand in September. This represents manufacturing expansion for the 16th consecutive month and growth in the overall economy for the 64th consecutive month.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis came out with its ‘third estimate’ for GDP growth in the second quarter of 2014, at 4.6 percent from the ‘second estimate’ figure of 4.2 percent. This latest second-quarter figure is based on more complete source data than were originally available but expresses a very strong quarter. Estimates for the third quarter are currently at 4.4% GDP growth in the U.S.

The US economy added 208,000 non-farm jobs in September, with notable gains being made in Business Services, Manufacturing, and Trade, Transportation and Utilities. While the U3 unemployment number has now dipped below 6% according to the US government, states that it is closer to 6.5%. The US government states that he U-6, which includes underemployed and discouraged workers, is at 11.3%, although an independent Gallup poll pegs it closer to 15%.

Mathematically, the government numbers appear incorrect. Using monthly unemployment statistics since 1948, the US economy needed to add 250,000 jobs each and every month to recover from the high 2008-09 unemployment rate above 10% to produce an unemployment percentage under 6% today. That has not been the rate of job creation each month since the Great Recession ended. The U-6 may be closer to the truth.

The Markit PMI, at 57.5 for September, was down slightly from August’s final 57.9 figure

Dun and Bradstreet’s US Business Health Index was up by 5.1 percent year-on-year in September, while the D and B Small Business Index was down 0.4 points. D and B’s US jobs health, with 208,000 non-farm jobs added in September, shows increases in jobs in all sectors; Manufacturing, Construction, Retail, Business Services, Trade, Transportation and Utilities and Real Estate.

World Crude Steel Production

World crude steel production for the 65 reporting countries for the month of August 2014 was 135 Mt, up 1.4 percent compared to August 2013. The capacity utilization ratio in August 2014 is 74.2 percent, down 1.4 percent compared to August 2013, and down 1.2 percent from July 2014.

US crude steel production, for August 2014, at 7.7 Mt, is up 2.9 percent year-over-year.

Primary Global Aluminum Production in August 2014 was 4,424 million tons. Of this total, 2,277 million tons, or over 51 percent, was produced in China.

U.S. Light Vehicle Sales – September

The latest estimates for US light vehicle sales in September 2014 compared to the previous year are:

Company Sep 2014 Sep 2013

General Motors 

































Auto sales for September are down from the pace set earlier in the summer, and the seasonally adjusted annualized rate is now running at around 16.4 million units. U.S. auto sales for 2013 were 15.6 million, an increase of 7.6 percent from 2012. There were 1.2 million light-vehicle sales in September, down 21.5 percent from August, which has been one of the two highest sales months so far this year. September sales were up 9.3 percent from September 2013.


II. North American Perspective

graphThe Institute of Supply Management PMI figure registered 56.6 percent in September, 6.6 points above 50, representing expansion in manufacturing for the 16th consecutive month. Annualizing the September PMI represents a 4.4 percent increase in the real GDP. August was at 59.0, 9 points above 50, which is the demarcation between an expanding or contracting economy. The September number represents a healthy cooling of the rate of expansion, since numbers in the 60’s begin to reflect an overheated economy.
Fifteen of the 18 reporting industries reported growth in September, including Wood Products, Primary Metals, Fabricated Metal Products, Food, Beverage and Tobacco Products, Paper Products, Chemical Products, Transportation Equipment and Petroleum and Coal Products. Machinery, Plastics and Rubber Products and Electrical Equipment, Appliances and Components showed a contraction in September.

Comments on the month are mostly optimistic, with a Fabricated Metal Products representative stating that warehouse and multi-family construction is showing continuing strong growth. A Transportation Equipment comment relates to world political unrest leading to increased defense requirements. The outlook is good for Paper Products, with demand increasing and a Machinery representative stated that the search continues for good machinists and electrical engineers.

The following 5 components of the ISM’s PMI, New Orders, Production, Employment, Supplier Deliveries and Inventories are equally weighted and used to calculate the PMI number. A monthly PMI over 50.0 indicates an expanding economy; a number over 60.0 indicates strong manufacturing output, although overheating may occur.

1. The ISM New Orders Index for September, at 60.0 percent, again 10 points above 50 from August’s 66.7 percent, representing growth in new orders for the 16th consecutive month, albeit at a slower rate. Twelve industries reported growth in new orders in September, including Primary Metals, Wood Products, Fabricated Metal Products, Food, Beverage and Tobacco Products, Paper Products, Transportation Equipment and Chemical Products. Plastics and Rubber Products and Machinery reported a decrease in new orders in September.

2.The ISM Production Index was at 64.6 percent in September, up very slightly from August’s 64.5 percent reading. This represents growth in production for the seventh consecutive month, and is the highest reading since May 2010 when the index was also at 64.6 percent. Growth was noted in 15 industries, including Wood Products, Primary Metals, Paper Products, Food, Beverage and Tobacco Products, Fabricated Metal Products, Plastics and Rubber Products, Transportation Equipment and Chemical Products. Machinery was the only industry showing a decrease in September

3.The ISM Employment Index for September, at 54.6 percent, 4.6 points above 50 from August’s reading of 58.1 percent, representing an increase in employment for the 15th consecutive month at a slower rate. Growth in employment in September was reported in eleven industries, including Primary Metals, Wood Products, Petroleum and Coal Products, Chemical Products, Machinery and Fabricated Metal Products. Five industries reported a decrease in employment in September, namely Plastics and Rubber Products, Paper Products, Food, Beverage and Tobacco Products, Transportation Equipment and Textile Mills.

4. The ISM Supplier Deliveries Index – to manufacturing organizations – slowed in September at a slightly slower rate relative to August as the Supplier Deliveries Index registered 52.2 percent, or 2.2 percentage points above 50 compared to August’s 53.9 percent reading. A reading below 50 percent represents faster deliveries in this indicator, above 50 percent means slower deliveries from suppliers to manufacturers. Slower supplier deliveries were noted in eleven industries in September, including Wood Products, Plastics and Rubber Products, Paper Products, Fabricated Metal Products, Chemical Products, Food, Beverage and Tobacco Products, Transportation Equipment and Primary Metals. Faster supplier deliveries in September were reported in Machinery, Computer and Electronic Products, Electrical Equipment, Appliances and Components and Textile Mills.

5. The ISM Inventories Index, at 51.5 percent for September, is 1.5 percentage points above 50, indicating growth in raw materials inventories for the second consecutive month. Seven industries reported higher inventories in September, including Wood Products, Paper Products, Food, Beverage and Tobacco Products, Chemical Products and Fabricated Metal Products. Seven industries reported lower inventories in September, including Textile Mills, Machinery, Plastics and Rubber Products and Electrical Equipment, Appliances and Components.

The following 5 components of the ISM’s PMI, Customer Inventories, Prices, Backlog of Orders, Exports and Imports are not used to calculate the PMI number but are tracked for trends in the marketplace

1. The ISM Customers’ Inventories Index, registered 44.5 percent in September, 4.5 percentage points below 50, meaning customer inventories have been too low for 34 consecutive months. Two manufacturing industries showed too high inventories in September, Electrical Equipment, Appliances and Components and Paper Products. Ten industries showed too low inventories in September, including Plastics and Rubber Products, Machinery, Primary Metals, Transportation Equipment, Chemical Products, Fabricated Metal Products and Food, Beverage and Tobacco Products. Six industries reported no change in customers’ inventories in September compared to August.

2. The ISM Prices Index registered 59.5 percent in September, a 1.5 percent increase on the August reading of 58.0 percent. In September 28 percent of respondents reported paying higher prices, 9 percent lower prices and 63 percent the same prices as in August. Thirteen industries reported paying higher prices in September, including Primary Metals, Plastics and Rubber Products, Fabricated Metal Products, Machinery, Food, Beverage and Tobacco Products, Chemical Products and Transportation Equipment. The three industries paying lower prices were Apparel, Leather and Allied Products, Wood Products and Petroleum and Coal Products.

Up in price in September were Aluminum (8) and Aluminum Products (2), Plastic Components, Plate Steel and Stainless Steel (7).

Down in price in September were Copper (2), corn (3) and lumber

In short supply in September were Stainless Steel and labor

The figures in parentheses represent the number of months listed.

3. The ISM Backlog of Orders Index was at 47.0 percent in September. This represents a contraction in order backlogs following one month of growth when August was at 52.5. Of the 85 percent of respondents reporting, 18 percent reported greater backlogs, 24 percent reduced backlogs and 58 percent reported no change from August. Seven industries reported increased order backlogs in September, including Textile Mills, Primary Metals, Paper Products, Fabricated Metal Products and Furniture and Related Products. Six industries reported a decrease in order backlogs including Miscellaneous Manufacturing, Chemical Products, Transportation Equipment and Food, Beverage and Tobacco Products.

4. The ISM New Export Orders Index at 53.5 percent for September is 3.5 percentage points above 50. The month’s reading represents growth in exports for the 22nd consecutive month. Seven industries reported an increase in New Export Orders in September, including Wood Products, Food, Beverage and Tobacco Products, Fabricated Metal Products, Electrical Equipment, Appliances and Components, Chemical Products and Transportation Equipment. The four industries reporting a decrease in New Export Orders in September were Nonmetallic Mineral Products, Computer and Electronic Products, Paper Products and Machinery. Seven industries reported no change in September compared to August

5. The ISM Imports Index is at 53.0 percent in September, 3.0 percentage points above 50. This represents the 20th consecutive month of growth in imports. Ten industries reported an increase in imports in September, including Plastics and Rubber Products, Miscellaneous Manufacturing, Food, Beverage and Tobacco Products, Chemical Products and Fabricated Metal Products. Four industries – Primary Metals, Nonmetallic Mineral Products, Paper Products and Machinery – reported a decrease in imports in September.

CANADA’s manufacturing PMI went from 54.8 percent in August to 53.6 in September. Canadian manufacturers experienced a further improvement in overall business conditions, reflecting higher levels of output, new orders and employment. The strength of the upturn moderated during September, partly due to a stagnation in new export business

Crude steel production in August 2014 in Canada was at 1.130 Mt.

Canadians bought 167,919 new cars and light trucks in September, up from 149,092 in September 2013, a gain of 12.6 percent. Ford Motor Company claimed top spot in Canada with its best September on record.

Mexico, the other member of NAFTA alongside the US and Canada, saw its manufacturing PMI go to an eight-month high of 52.6 percent in September from August’s 52.1 percent reading. Mexico’s PMI logged its twelfth month over 50, and both production and employment are up for the 11th consecutive month.


III. U.S. Forging Industry

forgingThe forging assets of the Carolina Forge Company (CFC) of Wilson, N.C. will be taken up by Linamar Corp. of Guelph, Ontario. Linamar will also become the majority shareholder , 66 percent, of Germany’s Seissenschmidt. Both the companies acquired by Linamar specialize in high-volume hot forgings. Seissenschmidt has three primary locations in Germany, Hungary and the US. These acquisitions will supplement Linamar’s core powertrain business and help its business in driveline, gear-based products. They will further help in development of lightweighting and NVH (Noise, Vibration, Harshness) design for products such as gears, differentials, wheel bearings, hubs and sprockets with high-speed forging processes.


IV. Manufacturing Talk Radio

Manufacturing Talk RadioIn September, Manufacturing Talk Radio enjoyed discussions on September 2 with Pat Lee, Director of Marketing at Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International, who discussed Manufacturing Day and her prediction that event participation would grow from 500 to the goal of 1,500 by October 3rd, Dan Meckstroth, Vice President and Chief Economist, Council Director, MAPI on Economic Indicators, Employment Trends, Global Competitiveness for U.S. Manufacturers, Industrial Economics, and Macroeconomic Conditions on September 9th, Linda Dempsey, Vice President of the National Association of Manufacturers speaking about the reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank on September 16th, Scott Mayer, President and CEO of QPS Employment Group, Inc., talking about the demand for skilled employees across the country in manufacturing on September 23rd, and Dr. Eloise Young, Senior Program Manager at Nine Sigma who discussed Open Innovation, a rather heady topic of developing a resource network well beyond internal staff and existing close compatriots in the industry because some solutions come from very unexpected places, on September 30th.

Manufacturing Day turned out to be a smash hit, with over 1600 events throughout the month of October and extending into November. All 50 states and 3 Canadian provinces are participating. There is still time to register an event to celebrate with your staff and/or invite in a local high school, trade school or college to get an inside look at your operations to educate and potentially attract new hires into the field of modern manufacturing.


V. Euro-Zone

forging1Markit’s Eurozone Manufacturing Composite Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for September saw a further decline to 50.3 from August’s 50.7 reading, a 15-month low. The struggle continues, with Germany’s PMI dipping below 50, in the company of both Austria and Greece. The three countries joined France in reporting manufacturing downturns in September. Ireland again turned out to be the bright spot. Some PMI figures by country are:

Ireland 55.7 2-month low Germany 49.9 15-month low

Spain 52.6 7-month low France 48.8 4-month high

Netherlands 52.2 2-month high Greece 48.4 11-month low

Italy 50.7 2-month high Austria 47.9 17-month low

In the month of September, prices continued to fall and cost-cutting measures saw further reductions in employment figures. The influx of new orders contracted for the first time since June 2013.

Worries are now on for the balance of the year, and as countries and economists might be telling us, the rest of the year may not be that good.

In the EU, Germany produced 3.1 Mt of crude steel, in August, down 1.0 percent y-o-y, Italy 1.0 Mt, down 0.8 percent y-o-y, France 1.1 Mt, down 9.1 percent y-o-y and Spain 1.1 Mt, down 0.4 percent y-o-y.

Western European car sales were a bit of a bright spot in the manufacturing gloom, posting a year-over-year 6 percent increase. German sales were up 5 percent, France’s 6 percent, Italy’s 3 percent and Spain’s 26 percent. On a seasonally adjusted basis, the annual selling rate in Western Europe is now estimated at 12.21 million units.

One of the big criticisms of both France and Italy, the Eurozone’s second and third largest economies, is that they’re not, unlike say the US, the UK and Germany, really pro-business, or at least not nearly to the extent they should be for developed nations. France is run by a President whose popularity rating – more like an unpopularity rating – is at a record low for the fifth republic. But there is a man called Manuel Valls, a relatively new prime minister and pro-business, who is ruffling feathers and ‘persuading’ those who don’t like his ideas to leave the nest and make room for new blood. Similarly a man called Matteo Renzi in Italy, who has inherited an economy effectively in recession, in even worse shape than France’s, will do his utmost to turn his country around.

We have to wait and see, and hope, that both countries will allow these modern-day white knights to do their job.

Meanwhile the UK saw a further drop in its Markit PMI to 51.6 in September, its lowest reading for 17 months. New-order growth is slowing to near stagnation, and there are weaker increases in production, new business and new export orders.

Car sales in the UK however are another story, and a 6 percent year-over-year increase was noted. Sales were up for the 31st consecutive month and September was the best month since 2004.Sales seem to be on target for 2.45 million new car registrations in the UK in 2014.

The Global Manufacturing Sector ended the third quarter on a steady growth footing. The JP Morgan Global Manufacturing PMI – a composite index produced by JP Morgan and Markit in association with ISM and IFPSM (International Federation of Purchasing and Supply Management) – edged down to a four-month low of 52.2 in September.

Global Manufacturing output rose for the 23rd successive month in September. The rate of growth for the third quarter as a whole was slightly higher than that registered in the second quarter, as was the intake of new orders.

VI. Asia Outlook

crude-steelCrude steel production in China for the month of August saw China producing 68.9 Mt, up 1.0 percent y-o-y, Japan 9.3 Mt, up 2.2 percent y-o-y, India 7.0 Mt, up 5.2 percent y-o-y and South Korea 5.3 Mt, up 8.0 percent y-o-y.

The HSBC China manufacturing PMI was unchanged from August’s 50.2 percent reading in September. This is all coincident with a slower increase in the pace of production, the sharpest rise in export work for 4.1/2 years and lower staffing levels

Chinese car and commercial vehicle sales in August 2014 totaled 1,715,600 units, up on July but down in June’s figures

In Japan, is at 51.7 for September, slightly down from August’s 52.2 reading. Output increased at a faster rate than in August and new orders were up for the fourth consecutive month. There is of late a definite improvement in Japan’s manufacturing sector.

Total new vehicle registrations in Japan for the first three quarters of 2014 were at 4,318,313 units, up 6 percent from 4,073,265 registrations in the same period in 2013.

India’s manufacturing (HSBC) PMI in September is down from August’s 52.4 percent at 51.0 percent. This still represents an improvement in operating conditions in India’s manufacturing activity, but at a slower rate. Output and new orders, particularly for export, were up.

VII. South America


Brazil’s crude steel production in August, at 2.9 MT, was down 1.4 percent year-over-year.

The seasonally adjusted HSBC and Markit Brazil PMI was at 49.3 percent in September, down from August’s 50.2 reading. Manufacturing operating conditions worsened in September, reversing August’s modest improvement. Amid reports of weakening demand, new orders fell in September for the fifth time in six months.

An election in Brazil is imminent


When we think of aluminum today many of us might think of the cans we drink from, the foil we wrap our food in and the saucepans we cook with. We may not think of the aluminum in our automobiles, nor that in the planes that carry us around the globe. But it’s there, as it is in building and construction.

Annual global production of the metal is around 50 million tons, a little over 3 percent of steel production. When we consider, however, that aluminum weighs about a third of what steel weighs, we’re effectively going for an ability to spread itself out to about 10 percent of steel production.

Aluminum is the most common metal in the earth’s crust, about twice as abundant as iron. But for the longest time it was a precious metal. People knew it was there but they couldn’t separate it from its ore, something we today call bauxite. In the 1820s a German chemist managed to extract a few grains, but that was all. In the early to mid nineteenth century the metal was tougher to get hold of than gold and silver and was thus deemed a precious metal. But people liked the look of it. Napoleon III had a special set of cutlery made from it, and efforts continued to try to produce it.

In the late nineteenth century it was discovered that aluminum could be persuaded to leave its ore if a fair amount of electricity were involved, pushing the price of a pound of the metal from $550 in the mid nineteenth century to 25 cents in the late nineteenth century. Thus was Alcoa born, today’s flagship US aluminum company.

The metal is recyclable and light weight. The electricity required to recycle the metal is about 15 percent of that required to extract it from its ore.

Today aluminum is a major player in both the aerospace and automotive industries. It’s big in jet-engine components. Alcoa recently signed a $1.1 billion agreement to supply key parts, including forgings, for Pratt and Whitney’s engines, underlining Alcoa’s ongoing efforts to profitably grow its own aerospace business.

The amount of aluminum in our automobiles has gone from about 75 pounds per vehicle in the 1970s to around 300 pounds today, and some sources are saying it might double by 2025. So there’s a battle going on between aluminum and steel, and this has led to the development of stronger steels, AHSS and UHSS (advanced and ultra high strength steels) to allow production of lighter, stronger, safer vehicles. There’s certainly room for both metals in today’s automobile, and if this results in improved safety and fuel efficiency then the consumer comes out as the big winner.

The US aluminum industry has a $51 billion annual economic impact. When all suppliers and related businesses functions are considered, the industry contributes some $152 billion to the economy, almost 1 percent of GDP.

Not bad for a relative newcomer.

THE ECONOMIST magazine, in its latest weekly report on world economies, highlights changes in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Industrial Production, Consumer Prices and Unemployment Rates for what it considers the world’s major economies. These data are not necessarily good to the present day, but are mostly applicable to at latest the past two months, and show definite trends in the world economy. The figures are qualified as being the latest available, and with reference to a given quarter or month. The figures for GDP represent change on the previous quarter, at an annual rate. The industrial production figures represent year-on-year changes, as do the consumer prices increases. The unemployment figures, %, are for the month as noted

GDP Indl. Prod Cons.Prices Unemploy.

United States    + 4.6 (qtr)    + 4.1 Aug     + 1.7 Aug     6.1 Aug

Canada     + 3.1 (qtr)   + 4.7 July    + 2.1 Aug    7.0 Aug

China     + 8.2 (qtr)   + 6.9 Aug   + 2.0 Aug    4.1 Q2

Japan    – 7.1 (qtr)    – 2.9 Aug    + 3.3 Aug    3.5 Aug

Britain  + 3.7 (qtr)    + 1.7 July    + 1.5 Aug    6.2 June

Euro area   + 0.1 (qtr)  + 2.2 July   + 0.3 Sept   11.5 Aug

France   – 0.1 (qtr)   + 0.1 July   + 0.4 Aug    10.5 Aug

Germany   – 0.6 (qtr)   + 2.4 July   + 0.8 Sept    6.7 Sept

Spain   + 2.3 (qtr)   + 0.9 July   – 0.2 Sept   24.4 Aug

India   + 3.1 (qtr)   + 0.5 July   + 7.8 Aug    8.8 2013

Brazil   – 2.4 (qtr)   – 3.5 July   + 6.5 Aug   5.0 Aug

Argentina  + 3.6 (qtr)   -2.9 Aug   7.5 Q2

Mexico   + 4.2 (qtr)   + 2.1 July   + 4.1 Aug   4.9 Aug


IX. A Final Word

supply chain managementThis month we can again report that the US economy is doing well, even though the PMI reading eased back a little. Things Chinese are doing OK, with the export market looking up again. Europe is heading down to below the 50 PMI mark and something serious will have to be done. The UK economy is easing back too. Car sales in both Europe and the UK are showing strength of late, so there is demand out there. We’re into the fourth quarter now and can hope that things will pick up again.

GALLUP’s recent US Weekly Economic Confidence Index was back up to –15.
Let’s say optimism again, for the fifth straight month.


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