Demand for motors increased for a third straight quarter during the second quarter of 2012 as NEMA’s Motors Shipments Index increased 5.3 percent from the previous quarter. This surge follows on the heels of a 5.9 percent (revised) gain posted in the first quarter of this year and a 3.6 percent gain recorded in the fourth quarter of the last year. Since bottoming out in the second quarter of 2009, during the depths of the Great Recession, the index has climbed a cumulative 53 percent – and has topped its pre-recession high for five straight quarters. Growth in the fractional horsepower segment of the motors market dipped below that of the integral horsepower segment in the second half of 2011, but rebounded strongly in the first half of 2012. The inflation adjusted dollar value of fractional horsepower motors shipments has almost doubled between the second quarter of 2009 and the second quarter of 2012, while the value of integral horsepower motors shipments increased by almost a third over the same period.
Motors shipments have benefited from strong manufacturing sector growth early this year, but that growth appears to be in the process of slowing. Although the manufacturing sector experienced a surge of activity in the first quarter of 2012, the second quarter showed a weak annualized gain of only 1.4 percent. Looking forward, the Institute of Supply Management manufacturing indices for new orders and export orders remain sluggish. While the weak 2012Q2 growth performance probably represented a low water mark, annualized increases in output are seen running no higher than the mid-2% ranges for the rest of 2012 and the whole of 2013.
Recent data on durable goods orders also point toward a slowing of the manufacturing recovery, with orders of durable goods contracting year-on-year by 1 percent in June. Overall, most of the incoming data indicates that manufacturing growth, one of the few bright spots in the recovery to date, is moderating amidst slow, but positive, progress in the U.S. economy. Nonetheless, the electrical manufacturing industry is expected to advance at a steady annual pace over the next two years.
Tana Farrington, International Economist