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Economics & Research Blog

Printing Shipments Up 5 Consecutive Months; Recovery Indicators Positively Mixed


By Dr. Joe Webb
Published: October 6, 2010

Monday's release of August's US commercial printing shipments showed that they increased on a current dollar basis for the last five months. When adjusted for inflation, four of the last five months were up. The first quarter of the year was rather dreadful, but these last months have been quite a turnaround. If the month-to-month comparisons continue in this manner for the rest of the year, the industry could have a $1 billion increase compared to 2009. Keep your fingers crossed. We're not sure if it's election related; our analysis of the last few mid-term election cycles showed declines in print in each of them. This election, however has lots of grass roots activity that has had to shift from strong use of social media for their initial efforts. Those initiatives have had to expand to the general electorate, often without the support of long-time political party insiders. We won't know for sure until early next year if this is a sustainable period of shipment stability or if it is event-driven, but we'll take the sales breathing room and increased profitability it brings no matter what the source. (More details later this week and in Monday's column). Recovery indicators were mixed. Manufacturing as reported by the ISM was disappointing. The prices paid for materials rose significantly (not in our chart), new orders were down, and imports were flat. These manufacturing indicators are still ahead of levels at the start of the recession in December 2007. ISM's non-manufacturing report, however, was quite the opposite. It was a very bullish report, with rising new orders and rising imports. The exports in their report (not one of our recovery indicators) jumped from slight contraction to strong expansion. It will be interesting to watch if this leap is sustainable. The NASDAQ had a variety of news to deal with over the month, and much of it was considered to be good for stocks, increasing 5% for the month. It's still below the levels at the start of the recession. The NASDAQ index, and proprietors income, are not adjusted for inflation, but getting them to December 2007 levels would be a victory nonetheless. We can quibble about the inflation-adjustment later. Proprietors income, our indicator of the health of small business, is getting closer to those levels, finally. We'll be watching it carefully. Friday, October 8, is the release of the latest employment data. We will Tweet our first comments a few minutes after the release, and will have our full discussion in Monday's column.

Dr. Joe Webb is one of the graphic arts industry's best-known consultants, forecasters, and commentators. He is the director of WhatTheyThink's Economics and Research Center.



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