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Metals & Manufacturing Outlook Newsletter

Presented by All Metals & Forge Group, the MetalsWatch! newsletter was first published in print in 1988 for All Metals & Forge Group. Its primary focus was to be informative to the metalworking industries in the United States. Its original circulation was 2500 organizations. Today, Metals & Manufacturing Outlook™ (formerly MetalsWatch!) has a global circulation of 85,000 companies from a very diverse group of industries, including Aerospace, Defense, Oil, Chemical, Automotive, Medical, Electronics, Heavy Industry, Shipbuilding, amongst many others. Feel free to read the most current issue below, or Click here to view the back issues in our Library at the bottom of the page. To Subscribe to Metals & Manufacturing Outlook™ and receive future issues, please enter your e-mail address and click on Subscribe.


Metals & Manufacturing Outlook – January 2015

I. Cover Story: OUT WITH THE OLD
II. NORTH AMERICAN PERSPECTIVE
III. U.S. FORGING INDUSTRY
IV. MANUFACTURING TALK RADIO
V. EUROZONE
VI. ASIA OUTLOOK
VII. SOUTH AMERICA
VIII. THE MANUFACTURING SCENE – WHITHER MEXICO
IX. THE FINAL WORD

Publisher’s Statement

If your company is dependent upon imports or exports, you should be listening to the live broadcast of Manufacturing Talk Radio (www.mfgtalkradio.com) or the podcasts at www.mfgtalkradio.com, or iTunes for the latest port updates. The West coast ports are in a log jam that began in May of 2014 which has been building to a crescendo.  We aren’t sure that the noise has abated yet, but both sides have now agreed to a federal mediator to make forward progress.

To sum it up, the winter storms in Jan/Feb 2014 prevented rail cars from being properly positioned to haul containers from the West Coast ports beginning in March/April.  Then the shipping lines sold off their chassis to leasing companies where chassis maintenance and repair become non-union.  Next, the ILWU contract expired on June 30 just as orders overseas were being placed for the 2014 holidays and the new container ships were coming online, hauling 13,000 containers or more per vessel.

August through October saw record import volumes quickly followed by a union work slowdown in November causing container volumes to back up at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, which are side by side in Long Beach, by the way.  By December, the damage was done, and with the pick-up in the economy in 2015, it is not expected that the West Coast ports will be operating reliably until June.

However, that is about the only negative occurring in the overall economy.  With the central banks in the Eurozone talking Qualitative Easing, a spark of hope has emerged in Europe, coupled with per barrel oil prices under $50.00 that will make energy cheaper.  This isn’t good news for Russia, Venezuela or Iran, where government budgets are built on oil above $100 per barrel, so they are running negative cash flow as OPEC continues to produce at previous levels to drive the barrel price down to curtail the Western fracking boom and the emerging position of the U.S. as the #1 oil producer in the world.

The aerospace industry is booming in both the U.S. and China with between 30,000 and 40,000 aircraft projected to be built over the next 20 years, predominantly in China, the U.S., Europe and to a lesser extent in other countries.  This will bode well for the metals market even as composites are introduced into more aircraft.

2015 should be an excellent year of growth with 3.5% GDP forecasted for the year overall.  2016 looks to continue this trend and it may be 2018 or later before we see any dark clouds on the horizon.  So, stay tuned to Metals & Manufacturing Outlook™ and Manufacturing Talk Radio for updates and information.

Respectfully,
Lewis A. Weiss
Publisher

Cover Story: OUT WITH THE OLD

The year 2014 was a turbulent one, punctuated, in North America, by a ferocious winter, and an under-publicized west coast port strike. The US economy saw its best performance since the recent recession, while Europe for the most part stumbled through the year – and is in fact still stumbling.

China seems to be taking the steps necessary to keep its economy rolling along, while India, one of its neighbors, might well be a country to keep an eye on in 2015, as will Mexico.

PMI NumberThe PMI figure from the Institute of Supply Management was at 55.5 percent in December, down from November’s 58.7 percent. This represents manufacturing expansion for the 19th consecutive month and growth in the overall economy for the 67th consecutive month.

The Manufacturers’ Alliance for Productivity and Innovation recently forecast annual percent changes in manufacturing production through 2019. It forecast a 3.3 percent figure for 2014, one percent higher than the 2.3 percent change in the overall economy. Annual percent changes forecast are 3.5 for 2015, 3.9 for 2016, 3.1 for 2017, 2.9 for 2018 and 2.7 for 2019.

Selected sector annual percent change forecasts are as follows:

2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Housing starts 18 15 12 4 1
Motor vehicles and parts 5 4 1 2 1
Iron and steel products 4 9 5 1 -2
Fabricated metal products 4 5 4 3 1
Metalworking machinery 7 7 5 3 2
Aerospace parts and products 6 9 7 6 4
Non-residentlal construction 3 8 10 7 4

 

Automobile and light truck sales are forecast at 16.9 million for 2015, 17.4 million for 2016 and 17.9million for 2017.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis came out with its ‘third’ estimate for the annual rate of Real GDP growth in the third quarter of 2014, and amended its figure from 3.9 percent to 5.0 percent. Real GDP increased by 4.6 percent in the second quarter.

The Markit PMI for the US manufacturing sector was at 53.9 in December,down from November’s figure of 54.8 percent. The manufacturing sector saw some loss of momentum in its growth of activity at the end of 2014, but manufacturers had their best year since the recession and they are mostly bullish on 2015.

Dun and Bradstreet’s US Business Health Index was up by 2.4 percent year-on-year in December. The Small Business Index was up 1.2 points.

D and B’s US Jobs Health, with 267,000 non-farm jobs added in December, shows increases in jobs in all sectors; Manufacturing, Construction, Retail, Business Services, Trade, Transportation and Utilities and Real Estate. were all up.

World crude steel production for the 65 reporting countries for the month of November 2014 was 131Mt, very slightly – 0.1 percent – higher than production for November 2013. The capacity utilization ratio in November 2014 is 73.5 percent, down 2.5 percent on November 2013, and down 1.2 percent on October 2014.

US crude steel production, for November 2014, at 7.2 Mt, is up 1.5 percent year-on-year.

Primary Global Aluminum Production in November 2014 was 4.551 million tonnes. Of this total, 2.428 million tonnes, or just over 53 percent, was produced in China. China recently announced plans to increase its primary aluminum capacity to 31 million tonnes.

Recently-formed company American Specialty Alloys Inc announced plans to build a $1.2 billion scrap-fed aluminum mini mill in the southeastern United States to produce 600,000 tons per annum of flat-rolled automotive quality aluminum to supply the North American automotive industry. This will fill an upcoming requirement for increased quantities of aluminum for an automotive industry that is showing a tendency to use significantly increasing quantities of the metal. It is rumored that a Cadillac CT6 will be produced in the not-too-distant future with an all aluminum body.

Here are the latest figures for US light vehicle sales in December:

The ‘Big Eight’ December ’14 December ’13 YTD % change
General Motors 274,483 230,157 19.3
Ford 219,389 216,592 1.3
Chrysler 193,261 161,007 20
Toyota 215,057 190,843 12.7
Honda 137,281 135,255 1.5
Nissan 117,318 109,758 6.9
Hyundai/Kia 110,094 96,636 13.9
Volkswagen 34,058 34,015 0.1
Total sales, all companies 1,507,339 1,360,302 10.8

Total light vehicle sales for 2014 came in at 16,522,000 against a figure of 15,600,199 for 2013, an increase of 5.9 percent y-o-y.

 

II. North American Perspective

na-flagThe Institute of Supply Management PMI figure registered 55.5 percent in December, 3.2 percentage points below November’s 58.7 figure, representing expansion in manufacturing for the 19th consecutive month. Annualizing the average PMI for January to December (55.8 percent) represents a 4.2 percent increase in the real GDP on an annualized basis. If the PMI for December is annualized, (55.5 percent) it represents a real GDP increase of 4.1 percent on an annualized basis.

Eleven of the eighteen industries reported growth in December, in order, Printing & Related Support Activities, Fabricated Metal Products, Primary Metals, Furniture & Related Products, Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products, Petroleum & Coal Products, Textile Mills, Paper Products, Miscellaneous Manufacturing, Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components, and Transportation Equipment. Six industries reported contraction in December, in order, Plastics & Rubber Products, Wood Products, Machinery, Nonmetallic Mineral Products, Chemical Products and Computer & Electronic Products.

Comments on the month from the manufacturing sector are generally very positive, but there appears to be increasing concern from the Fabricated Metal Products, Textile Mills and Machinery sectors regarding the west coast ports situation. This is in certain cases necessitating air freighting of parts from Asia.

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 December, at 57.3 perccnt, was down by 8.7 percentage points from November’s 66.0 percent, representing growth in new orders for the 19th consecutive month, albeit at a slower rate. Nine industries reported growth in new orders in December, including, in order, Primary Metals, Textile Mills, Fabricated Metal Products, Petroleum & Coal Products and Paper Products. Six industries showed a decrease in December, including, in order, Wood Products, Plastics & Rubber Products, Machinery and Chemical Products.
  2. The ISM Production Index, at 58.8 percent in December, was down 5.6 percentage points from November’s 64.4 percent reading. This represents growth in production for the 10th consecutive month. Growth was noted in seven industries, including, in order, Printing & Related Support Activities, Fabricated Metal Products, Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products and Computer & Electronic Products. Seven industries reported a decrease in production in December including Wood Products, Plastics & Rubber Products, Textile Mills, Petroleum & Coal Products, Machinery and Transportation Equipment.
  3. The ISM Employment Index for December, at 56.8 percent, is up 1.9 percentage points from November’s reading of 54.9 percent, representing an increase in employment for the 18th consecutive month. Growth in employment in December was reported in eleven industries, including, in order, Printing & Related Support Activities, Petroleum & Coal Products, Primary Metals, Chemical Products, Fabricated Metal Products, Paper Products and Transportation Equipment. Two industries, Computer &Electronic Products and Plastics & Rubber Products, showed a decrease in production in December.
  4. The ISM Supplier Deliveries Index – to manufacturing organizations – slowed in December at a faster rate relative to November as the Supplier Deliveries Index registered 59.3 percent, or 2.5 percentage points above November’s 56.8 percent reading. A reading below 50 percent represents faster deliveries, above 50 percent means slower deliveries. Slower supplier deliveries were noted in 10 industries in December including, in order, Textile Mills, Primary Metals, Fabricated Metal Products, Plastics & Rubber Products, Machinery, Transportation Equipment and Chemical Products. Faster supplier deliveries in December were noted in Petroleum & Coal Products and Chemical Products.
  5. The ISM Inventories Index, at 45.5 percent for December, is 6.0 percentage points lower than the 51.5 percent reading for November, indicating a contraction in raw materials inventories following four consecutive months of growth. Six industries reported higher inventories in December, in order, Wood Products, Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components, Paper Products, Primary Metals, Fabricated Metal Products and Furniture & Related Products. Eigtht industries reported lower inventories in December, including Plastics & Rubber Products, Chemical Products, Machinery, Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products and Transportation Equipment.

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 December, 5.5 percentage points lower than November’s 50.0 reading, meaning that customers’ inventories are considered to be too low. Four manufacturing industries showed too high customers’ inventories in December, namely Primary Metals, Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components, Computer & Electronic Products and Chemical Products. Seven industries reported too low customers’ inventories in December, namely Machinery, Plastics & Rubber Products, Paper Products, Fabricated Metal Products, Furniture & Related Products, Transportation Equipment and Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products.

2. The ISM Prices Index registered 38.5 percent in December, a 6.0 percent decrease on the November reading of 44.5 percent. This represents a decrease in raw material prices for the second consecutive month, and a total price decrease of 15 percentage points over the last two months. In December 12 percent of respondents reported paying higher prices, 35 percent reported paying lower prices and 53 percent reported paying the same prices as in November. Two industries reported paying higher prices in December, namely Nonmetallic Mineral Products and Furniture & Related Products. Thirteen industries reported paying lower prices, including Chemical Products, Primary Metals, Plastics & Rubber Products, Petroleum & Coal Products, Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products, Fabricated Metal Products, Transportation Equipment, Machinery and Paper Products.

  • Up in price in December were Aluminum (11), Electric Components, Natural Gas and Stainless Steel (10).
  • Down in price in December were Aluminum*, Brass, Cardboard, Copper (4), Crude Oil (2), Diesel (3), Gasoline (3),HOPE Resin, Oil, Oil-based Products, PET Resin (2), Plastic Resin, Polypropylene Resin, Scrap Steel, Stainless Steel*, Steel   and Hot-Rolled Steel (2).

* Aluminum and Stainless Steel were noted as being both up and down in price.

  • Nothing was reported in short supply in November.

The figures in parentheses represent the number of months listed.

  1. The ISM Backlog of Orders Index was at 52.5 percent in December, a 2.5 percentage points decrease from November’s 55.0 percent reading. This represents the third consecutive month of growth in order backlogs. Of the 87 percent of respondents reporting, 25 percent reported greater backlogs, 20 percent reduced backlogs and 55 percent reported no change from November. Nine industries reported increased order backlogs in December, including, in order, Primary Metals, Fabricated Metal Products, Petroleum & Coal Products, Paper Products, Machinery, Chemical Products and Computer & Electronic Products. Six industries reported a decrease in order backlogs, including Wood Products, Transportation Equipment and Plastics & Rubber Products.
  2. The ISM New Export Orders Index at 52.0 percent for December is 3 percentage points down on November’s 55.0 percent reading. The month’s reading represents growth in exports for the 25th consecutive month. Six industries reported an increase in New Export Orders in December, namely Fabricated Metal Products, Furniture & Related Products, Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products, Petroleum & Coal Products, Transportation Equipment and Machinery. Six industries reported a decrease in New Export Orders in December, namely Wood Products, Nonmetallic Mineral Products, Plastics & Rubber Products, Paper Products, Chemical Products and Computer & Electronic Products.
  3. The ISM Imports Index, at 55.0 percent in December, is one percentage point lower than November’s 56.0 percent reading. This represents the 23rd consecutive month of growth in imports. Nine industries reported an increase in imports in December, in order, Petroleum & Coal Products, Transportation Equipment, Nonmetallic Mineral Products, Furniture & Related Products, Machinery, Fabricated Metal Products, Computers & Electronic Products, Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products and Chemical Products. Two industries, Plastics & Rubber Products and Miscellaneous Manufacturing reported a decrease in December.

CANADA’S RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) Manufacturing PMI is at 53.9 percent in December, 1.4 percentage points lower than November’s 55.3 reading.

Production and new order growth were maintained in December but at lower rates. Job creation was at its lowest rate in six months.The month saw, in fact, a solid overall performance for Canadian manufacturing, despite a moderation in new business growth and a smaller contribution from export sales.

Crude steel production in November 2014 in Canada was at 1.075 Mt.

Canadians bought 1.849 million cars and light trucks in 2014, to set a record year for Canadian vehicle sales.

Mexico, the other member of NAFTA alongside the US and Canada, saw its manufacturing PMI go from November’s 54.3 percent to 55.3 percent in December. Manufacturers report a good improvement in overall business conditions in December, with production and new orders rising at the fastest rate for two years. Business activity is growing at its fastest rate since December 2012.

Mexico produced 1.57 Mt of crude steel in November 2014.

 

III. U.S. Forging Industry

forging

The U.S. forging industry has largely recovered from The Great Recession and showed real signs of strength in 2014, including the processes of closed die, press, upset, open die, cold die and seamless rolled rings. The automotive industry is the largest user of forgings, especially closed die. Other industries that use forgings include aerospace, machinery, defense and railways..

Several industry leaders in the production of open die forgings, such as round and flat bar, flanges, hubs, discs, rolled rings and cylinders reported strong growth for 2014 over 2013, including All Metals & Forge Group, a leading producer of open die forgings and seamless rolled rings in carbon, alloy, stainless and tool steel, nickel, aluminum, titanium and copper.

Sales were strongest in carbon and alloy steel, the industry staples, followed by stainless steel. Nickel has not returned to its peak prior to the Great Recession, but aluminum is expected to grow consistent with the manufacturing of aircraft between 30,000 and 40,000 commercial planes over the next 20 years.

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 5.18.40 PMThe largest open die forging manufacturers are seeing delivery times begin to stretch out beyond 12 weeks, with some customer deliveries quoted at 16 to 18 weeks. All Metals & Forge Group continues to quote deliveries below 12 weeks and may soon report 10 weeks or less for many manufactured parts due to improvements in their end-to-end processes.

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 5.19.05 PMForging, especially components made from open die and seamless rolled ring production continue to provide greater cost savings and better material properties than cast, extruded, cut or hogged out parts when comparing in many similar applications.

Purchase of forging components for 2015 and 2016 is forecast as very strong, with analysts predicting global forging industry growth at a CAGR of 9.73 percent through 2018.

 

IV. Manufacturing Talk Radio

Manufacturing Talk Radio

In 2014, listeners topped 100,000 with over 40,000 people who tuned in to the live broadcast and more than 60,000 who downloaded the show as a podcast to hear it at their convenience on their smartphone during drive-time or after work hours.

At the end of the year, the show focused on the West Coast port situation as the ILWU and PMA held a stare-down as containers in the port languished for weeks. With federal mediation involved it is still anybody’s guess when a new contract might be reach and whether it will be for 6 years, three years or just one.

Other shows during the year included a monthly update by Brad Holcomb, the Committee Chair for the Manufacturing Report on Business® and Tony Nieves, the Committee Chair for the Non-Manufacturing Report on Business® contributing quarterly.

Other themes included information to help manufacturers who wanted to enter the export arena, find working capital, find people as the baby boomers retire, or hear what was going on with the economy overall. Some shows covered the economy in specific states, such as Nevada, California, Texas and Maryland, all of whom reported a positive outlook at present and going forward.

The show also covered the broad issues of Reshoring, global economic trends, Disruptive Thinking, Open Innovation, the comeback of quality at the C-suite level, and the long teeth of OSHA for companies both large and small.

Manufacturing Talk Radio continues to be an hour well invested to hear insightful industry information to help manufacturers, and the show will continue in 2015 to cover themes including the Internet of Everything, the Industry Internet of Things, Stable and Reliable Supply Chains, and other currents moving through the industry as the economy expands.

Tune in at www.mfgtalkradio.com or download the podcast for later listening at the website or iTunes.

 

V. Euro-Zone

euro-zone

Markit’s Eurozone Manufacturing Composite Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for December saw a slight improvement to 50.6 from November’s 50.1 reading, but manufacturing was effectively stagnant in the Eurozone at year end, with France and Italy again bringing up the rear, and modest growth in Germany. The fourth quarter in fact saw the worst growth since the current recovery started in the third quarter of 2013.

December saw the slowest production growth during the current 18-month period of sustained expansion. There was a slight improvement in new orders which were up for the first time in four months. The growth rate of new orders increased to a three-month high.

There was a good, solid improvement in Ireland, Spain and the Netherlands. PMIs by country are as follows:

PMI High/low
Ireland 56.9 4-month high
Spain 53.8 2=month low
Netherlands 53.5 2-month low
Germany 51.2 2-month high
Greece 49.4 4-month high
Austria 49.2 4-month high
Italy 48.4 19-month low
France 47.5 4-month low

 

In the EU, Germany produced 3.6 Mt of crude steel, in November, down 1.9 percent y-o-y, Italy 1.9 Mt, down 13.9 percent y-o-y, France 1.4 Mt, up 5.8 percent y-o-y and Spain 1.2 Mt, down 1.9 percent y-o-y.

Western European car sales, for the month of December 2014 are, to say the least, mixed, with France showing a y-o-y drop of 6.8 percent, but Spain, still subsidy-supported, showing a jump of 23.4 percent to 73,440 units, and an increase over the year of 18.4 percent to 855, 308 units. Italy’s December figure was 91,518 units, a 2.35 percent y-o-y increase, with total sales for the year of 1.36 million units, up 4.2 percent. Germany’s figure for December was up 7 percent y-o-y to 229,700 units, with the figure for the whole year up 3 percent to just over 3 million units.

United KingdomThe UK saw its Markit PMI ease back slightly to 52.5 percent in December. The rates of expansion in production and new orders slowed to their second-lowest level for 18 months. Growth in both manufacturing production and new orders is, however, in its 22nd month.

Growth was again domestic-fuelled and exports, particularly those to Europe, were lacklustre.

The year in the UK has been generally good, and is considered to be a solid footing for 2015.

2,476,435 new cars were registered in the UK in 2014, the most in a calendar year since 2004, and the 4th largest ever, behind 2002, 2003 and 2004. The 2014 market was up 9.3 percent on 2013.

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) – went to its lowest reading in December since August 2013, to 51.6 percent from November’s 51.8 reading.

 

VI. Asia Outlook

Asia OutlookCrude steel production for the month of November saw China producing 63.3 Mt, down 0.2 percent y-o-y, Japan 9.2 Mt, down 1.1percent y-o-y, India 6.8 Mt, up 4.8 percent y-o-y and South Korea 5.9 Mt, up 5.5 percent y-o-y.

The HSBC China manufacturing PMI for December was down slightly at 49.6 percent from November’s 50.0 percent reading. Operating conditions deteriorated at the end of 2014, with output and new orders falling slightly on the month. New export business was up and at a slightly quicker rate than in November. There is a slight decrease in manufacturing employment numbers.

The final 2014 figures for 2014 Chinese auto sales are not yet available.

General Motors and its Chinese joint ventures sold a record 3, 539,970 vehicles in China in 2014, up 12 percent from 2013. Sales for the month of December 2014, at 357,375 vehicles, were up 31.9 percent on the 2013 figure. GM is set to invest some $12 billion in China between 2014 and 2017, including the building of 5 more plants.

Many of China’s largest, hence more polluted, cities are restricting the number of motor vehicles they will allow to be registered. To date Shanghai, Hangzhou, Beijing, Tianjin and Guangzhou are in the program, with Shenzhen joining recently, saying it will set a limit at 100,000 vehicles.

In Japan, the (preliminary) Markit manufacturing PMI is at 52.1 percent in December, effectively unchanged from November’s 52.0 percent reading. Operating conditions continued to improve in December with production increasing at its fastest rate in three months. Job creation is speeding up and the short-term outlook is positive.

Total new vehicle registrations in Japan for the month of December 2014 were up 2.1 percent on the y-o-y figure, at 431,918 units. The year-to-date figure for 2014 is 5,562,887 units, a y-o-y increase of 3.5 percent.

India’s manufacturing (HSBC) PMI increased in December to 54.5 percent from November’s 53.3 percent reading. This is a two-year high. Business conditions are at their best in two years with solid improvements in new business, production and exports. The export performance is at its best since April 2011.

 

VII. South America

south-americaBrazil’s crude steel production in November, at 2.8 Mt, was up 2.4 percent year-on-year.

The seasonally adjusted HSBC and Markit Brazil PMI increased from 48.7 percent in November to 50.2 percent in December. Operating conditions improved for the first time in four months. There was an increase in new orders but a slight decline in production in the month of December. New order volumes were up for the first time in nine months and there was new employment in the month, the first time since July.

 

 

VIII. THE MANUFACTURING SCENE: WHITHER MEXICO

Manufacturing in MexicoIn the year 2000 Mexico’s labor costs were 53 percent more than China’s. In 2015 they’re forecast to be 19 percent less.

Since early 2007 the yuan is up 25 percent against the US dollar, and since that time China’s labor costs are up 60 percent in US dollar terms.

In the transportation equipment and parts sector, China has lost market share to Mexico in both the US and the EU.

Mexico is, of course, a member of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and all of Mexico’s progress is good news for the US, as products made in Mexico contain on average 4 times as many US-made parts as those made in China.

Mexico’s auto production has doubled since 2009, but its steel industry hasn’t kept pace. Even though it is the world’s 13th largest steelmaker, its production of auto-quality steel (e.g galvanized) remains low. Fortunately companies such as Luxembourg-based Ternium brought on stream a 1.5 million tpy facility to supply the automotive and home appliance iondustries. A further 400,000 tons of galvanized steel capacity comes from Ternium’s joint venture with Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal. South Korea’s POSCO has an annual capacity of almost 1 million tons at its plant in Mexico.

Mexico’s own major steel company, Altos Homos de Mexico (Ahmsa) is bringing on stream a $2.3 billion expansion that will in part supply the automakers. The Mexican steel industry is in the midst of an $11 billion expansion in the next 3 to 4 years.

Mexico accounted for 19 percent of North American car and light truck production in 2013. Mexican labor costs in the industry are some 20 percent of those in the US and Canada. The Mexican Automobile Industry Association is predicting production of 4 million units per annum by 2017. Nissan, Honda, Mazda and VW’s Audi are building plants that will join long-standing GM and Ford plants in Mexico.

Pemex MexicoAnother very important industry in Mexico is, of course, energy. An end to the 75-year monopoly of the state’s flagship oil company Pemex will allow joint ventures with international oil companies, and will in fact open up new possibilities for Pemex itself. The Mexican Government says this reform will lead to more than $50 billion in new oil sector investment through 2018.

A five-year, $585 billion infrastructure plan has been announced, including a $9 billion airport for Mexico City, for which Ahmsa expects to provide the steel.

Things thus look encouraging for Mexico’s growing automotive and energy manufacturing sectors, particularly in the cradle of NAFTA.

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 the Economist Intelligence Unit forecast for the year 2014. 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 Prodn Cons prices Unemployt
United States +2.3 (2014) +5.2 (Nov) +1.7 (Oct) 5.8 (Nov)
Canada +2.3 (2014) +3.9 (Sept) +2.4 (Oct) 6.6 (Nov)
China +7.3 (2014) +7.2 (Nov) +1.4 (Nov) 4.1 (Qtr 2)
Japan +0.5 (2014) – 0.8 (Oct) +2.9 (Oct) 3.5 (Oct)
Britain +3.0 (2014) +1.1 (Oct) +1.0 (Nov) 6.0 (Aug)
Euro Area +0.8 (2014) +0.7 (Oct) +0.3 (Nov) 11.5 (Oct)
France +0.4 (2014) – 1.0 (Oct) +0.3 (Nov) 10.5 (Oct)
Germany +1.4 (2014) +0.9 (Oct) +0.6 (Nov) 6.6 (Nov)
Spain +1.3 (2014) -0.6 (Oct) – 0.4 (Nov) 24.0 (Oct)
India + 6.0 (2014) – 4.2 (Oct0 + 4.4 (Nov) 8.8 (2013)
Brazil + 0.2 (2014) – 3.6 (Oct) + 6.6 (Nov) 4.7 (Oct)
Argentina – 0.6 (2014) – 1.8 (Oct) 7.5 (Qtr 3)
Mexico + 2.1 (2014) + 2.1 (Oct) + 4.2 (Nov) 4.7 (Oct)

IX. The Final Word

The US economy is still doing well, but a cautious eye must be kept on the west coast port situation. Canada, the UK, India and Mexico all bear watching in the coming year. We can only hope that the parties that wield the power in Europe are up to the task ahead of them.
China will go its way.
GALLUP’s US Economic Confidence Index closed  the year at +2, the first positive score since Gallup started tracking the index in 2008. Its Job Creation Index ended the year at +27 in December, 8 points higher than it started the year.
It’s still optimism.

 

 

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