Optimism for World Economic Outlook Improves

Moderate revenue growth expected in 2013; investment spending plans increase; emphasis on R&D and new products; hiring plans reach high


New YorkOct. 18, 2013?Optimism among U.S. industrial manufacturers regarding the global economic outlook reached the highest level since the first quarter of 2012, according to the Q3 2013 Manufacturing Barometer, released by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) U.S. In the third quarter of 2013, 40 percent of respondents expressed optimism regarding the world economy for the next 12 months, up from 31 percent in the prior quarter and 29 percent from the third quarter of 2012.

The primary growth driver remains the U.S. economy, with 60 percent expressing optimism about the domestic outlook. In addition, 78 percent believe the U.S. economy grew in the third quarter, up six points from the prior quarter and representing the highest level since 2006. The outlook for the U.S. continues to contrast with the international picture in which optimism regarding actual revenue contributions in the next 12 months remained low at 30 percent, down two points from the second quarter and off eight points from last year’s third quarter.

“The divergence in viewpoints regarding the U.S. and world economic outlooks narrowed somewhat in the third quarter. Optimism regarding the global economy improved, but uncertainty remained prevalent, marked by persistently low expectations regarding the level of international revenue contributions going forward,” said Bobby Bono, U.S. industrial manufacturing leader, PwC. “Despite the uptick in global economic sentiment, the U.S. remains the growth driver in the industrial manufacturing sector, with continued signs of healthy demand, pricing strength, new product investment and hiring. Overall top-line growth expectations remain moderate and management teams are continuing to take a careful approach to capital allocation and cost management, while preserving liquidity.”

Reflecting the healthy level of optimism pertaining to the domestic economy, 82 percent of U.S. industrial manufacturers surveyed expect positive revenue growth for their own companies in the next 12 months, with only 2 percent forecasting negative growth. The projected average revenue growth rate over the next 12 months remained moderate at 4.2 percent, down from 4.6 percent in the second quarter and last year’s third quarter. Only 7 percent forecast double-digit growth, while 75 percent expect single-digit growth.

With regard to capital spending, 48 percent of industrial products manufacturers surveyed plan major new investments of capital during the next 12 months, up eight points from the prior quarter’s 40 percent, and on par with a year ago (49 percent). The mean investment as a percentage of total sales was 6.5 percent, higher than the prior quarter’s 4 percent and representing the highest level in the past nine quarters.

Plans for operational spending also rose. Looking at the next 12 months, 78 percent of respondents plan to increase operational spending, up five points from the second quarter. Leading increased expenditures were new product or service introductions at 55 percent, up 10 points from the second quarter and representing the highest level in the past seven quarters. This was followed by research and development (R&D) (38 percent) and information technology (35 percent). Plans for new joint ventures and strategic alliances also rose, while spending forecasts for mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and overseas expansion remained low. In fact, the number of respondents indicating the potential to acquire another business was 17 percent, less than half the level of last year’s third quarter.

“Management teams are continuing to focus on boosting organic growth, with an emphasis on new product launches and investment in R&D and technology,” Bono continued. “This is indicative of the mixed global outlook and overall moderate revenue growth expectations. In an uncertain environment, industrial manufacturers are managing risk, and concentrating on strengthening their products and services. They are doubling down on what they do best in a quest to expand market share.”

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