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MAPI manufacturing survey suggests rebound is imminent

January 15, 2010 | “MarketWatch"

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- The manufacturing sector is just about ready to start growing again, according to an in-depth industry analysis released Thursday that focuses on shipments, backlogs, inventories and profit margins.

The latest quarterly Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI business outlook survey shows that its December composite index, which measures overall manufacturing activity, rose to 57% from 38% in the September report, reclaiming its highest level since March 2008.

At its current level, the index signals that activity is expected to grow over the next three to six months.
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Don Norman, the MAPI economist who conducted the survey, said the rebound from the sharp downturn in the fourth quarter of 2008 isn't, by itself, enough to conclude that a meaningful recovery is underway.

"The extent to which the individual indexes improved, however, along with the significant increases in the forward-looking annual orders and investment indexes, provide the strongest indication to date that the manufacturing sector is on the upswing," he explained.

The study covers 12 individual indexes, 10 of which improved by double digits.

The quarterly orders index rose to 42% from 11% in the prior survey, while the backlogs index jumped to 36% from 16%. A gain in backlogs generally signals that new orders exceed shipments.

The U.S. investment index, which asks executives about their outlook for capital investment in 2010, rose to 66% from 47% from the previous quarter.

The capacity utilization index, based on the percentage of firms operating at about 85%, was the only index to lose ground, dropping to 7% from 8.4% in the prior survey.

By Shawn Langlois, MarketWatch

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