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Dr. Joe Webb

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

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Recent Commentary & Analysis from Dr. Joe Webb

Displaying 1-24 of 1234 articles

Q3-2016 Real GDP Revised Up from +2.9% to +3.2%; Little Change in Yearly Comparison

Published December 1, 2016

The Bureau of Economic Analysis issued its second estimate of real gross domestic product, raising it to +3.2%. Real GDP for 2Q-2016 was +1.4%. Each advance release of GDP data is revised monthly as “more complete source data” is used rather than estimates. We prefer comparing GDP data to the same quarter as the prior year, which helps minimize the variation and possible distortions of seasonal adjustments. Compared to last year, Q3-2016 was +1.6%. Because inventory changes can distort GDP estimates, we also look at the data less inventories, and it shows the economy still hovering around a +2.0% growth rate. Lately, the inventory adjustments have been small. Theoretically, they should be zero in the long run, and for these last two quarters that has nearly been the case. In 2015, it averaged +$82 billion per quarter. Some of 2016's sluggish performance has been an inventory adjustment in the overall economy. The Atlanta Fed's GDPNow estimate for the current Q4 is running at +2.4%.

 

Premium Content Print is Good. So What? Print is Intimidating. That Matters.

Published November 28, 2016

Dr. Joe went to lunch and heard a three-word sentence that changed his Graph Expo and his industry conversations thereafter. When he said those three words, jaws would drop, but curiosity would rise. The three words? “Print is Intimidating.” And we always thought we were being nice. Find out why in Dr. Joe's column.

 

Fed's Industrial Production Index Down for 13 Consecutive Months: A Recession on Inauguration Day?

Published November 17, 2016

Will the newly inaugurated President Trump be dealing with a recession like his predecessor did? In December 2008, a recession was declared, and the experts said it started almost a year before then. Several economic indicators, like durable goods orders and factory orders, have been negative compared to the prior year's level for almost two years. The Federal Reserve's Industrial Production Index released on November 16 marked its thirteenth consecutive negative comparison to the prior year. The only sector that is holding up in the GDP reports is the consumer side of that bookkeeping. That can't hold up for long unless the production and investment side of the GDP ledgers start to perk up. There is optimism in the markets about a Trump recovery, but it must be noted that there are many legislative hurdles ahead, and most economic plans take about 18 months to develop notable impact.

 

Stuff I Said in 2008: How It Turned Out

Published November 14, 2016

Eight years ago we were changing presidential paths as we are today, and Dr. Joe had a webinar amidst that tumult of the freshly declared recession, jittery markets, and that upcoming transition. This week, he goes into the archives and reviews what he forecast – and grades himself accordingly. He even gave himself an F for one of the forecasts – how did he do on the others?

 

US Commercial Printing Shipments in Mild Downturn; Employment Consolidation Continues

Published November 7, 2016

US commercial printing shipments for September 2016 were down -$8 million compared to the prior year (-0.1%). On an inflation-adjusted basis, shipments were down by -$118 million. Interestingly, inflation-adjusted August shipments were up by +$118 million, making the net change for the two months zero.

 

US Employments Report: Not What the Headlines Said

Published November 7, 2016

The business headlines about the October employment report may have said “unemployment rate falls to 4.9%; payrolls grow +161,000,” but the details of the overall employment picture deteriorated.

 

Recovery Indicators Mixed Again

Published November 4, 2016

Last month's recovery indicators bounced back big from a dreadful report, but this month's have moderated. The ISM manufacturing and non-manufacturing new orders decreased, but they are still above the 50 breakeven level, showing growth. The non-manufacturing side is still strongly on the growth side of the line.

 

Q3 Real GDP +2.9%; Soybeans Lead the Charge?

Published November 1, 2016

Prior to the release of Q3's advance estimate of real GDP, the Atlanta Fed's GDPNow forecast was +2.1%. The official figure came in much better, at +2.9%. It is likely to be revised down slightly, but it was a much better showing than recent data.

 

National Retail Federation Forecasts +3.6% in Holiday Retail Sales

Published October 29, 2016

The National Retail Federation issued its forecast of holiday retail sales. It expects a +3.6% increase compared to 2015. But what's the real increase? After deducting for inflation, that's about +1.5%. If real GDP comes in at +2% in the October 28, 2016 advance report for Q3, holiday retail sales growth will be in line with the growth rate of +1.4% for the year. In some ways, this can be a good year compared to recent history. Holiday retail sales have averaged +2.46% since 2007, with a net after inflation of only +0.64%. On a per person basis, that's actually a decline in that period.

 

GSMA Intelligence Mobile Trends

Published October 27, 2016

 

Premium Content Mobility and Print Align at an Opportune Time

Published October 24, 2016

There's nothing like print enriching itself, and mobile might be the way to do it. A surge in mobile information preference is underway. How should printers plan? Diving in of course, by turning on static print materials into Internet and other gateways. If printers have sidestepped the digital media revolution to concentrate on the media they do best, this may be an opportune time to enliven their offerings as technology, economics, and consumer preference seem to be aligning themselves in a very special way.

 

Per Capita Pounds of Mail

Published October 13, 2016

Since the beginning of the economic recovery in 2009, first class mail is down by -12%, standard mail (discounted bulk mail) down by -18%, and periodicals down a whopping -32%.

 

Premium Content Recovering Recovery and Quadrennial Snapshots: More Logical than it Sounds

Published October 10, 2016

For once the employment report was bad on the outside but good on the inside. Printing employment continues to show consolidation effects. The recovery indicators have their own recovery. August printing shipments are big, making up for July’s disturbing decline. Dr. Joe’s good Graph Expo included a visit to the Printerverse and a digital book discussion worth watching.

 

Q2 Real GDP Revised Up to +1.4%; Durable Goods Orders Contracting for 20 Months

Published October 4, 2016

Real GDP for the second quarter got its final revision, and was raised from +1.1% to +1.4%. Regular readers know that we prefer to look at real GDP on a year-to-year basis, excluding inventories, to give a better long-term view of the economy. The second quarter had an inventory correction, which seemed overdue.

 

Manufacturing May Be Declining, but Real Retail Sales are Still Positive

Published September 22, 2016

Data about manufacturing from the ISM and the Commerce Department have show a contraction compared to the prior year. In some cases that slowdown and contraction has been in process for 18 or more months. Retail sales and consumer spending have been the brighter spots of the economy. The inflation-adjusted growth rate of retail sales has been slowing since the beginning of 2015.

 

Worth Reading: History of JFK's Economic Legacy

Published September 22, 2016

 

Premium Content Traditional Publishing Ebbs, and Oh, Those CMOs

Published September 19, 2016

Remember that “content is king” thing? The king is losing money. Worldwide ad agency Carat is forecasting moderate growth in advertising, but major shifts in the way ad budgets are spent. It's a fascinating look at worldwide communications with significant implications for printers of all sizes. And then those CMOs... just when they think they have it figured out, they're getting fired again.

 

Pew Offers Essential Insights into Book Readership

Published September 15, 2016

The Pew Research Center's recent report about book reading gives us a peek at the relationship of print and digital media. The report says “A growing share of Americans are reading e-books on tablets and smartphones rather than dedicated e-readers, but print books remain much more popular than books in digital formats.” The chart shows what formats their respondents used in the year prior to the survey. Only 6% were digital-only readers. The report states that 26% read no book in the last year; they may have read other things, but not books. Contrary to many reports about the “demise” of e-books, that has risen from 17% to 28%. It's been stuck there for three years. Print-only readers were 39% (remember: that used to be the entire market of book readers). Print and digital readers are now at 29%. Add the 6% digital-only, and you're at 35%. Content needs to be available in multiple media. Media selection is based on many factors, such as time, convenience, price, income, education, age, and others. Pew also offers insights into the use of audiobooks. The report is free can be downloaded from the Pew Research Center. One other note: when you hear that tablet sales are down or that e-book reader sales are down, keep in mind the versatile use of smartphones and their growing role in content engagement. Among readers 18-29 years old, 22% of them are reading books on their smartphones, 4x more than read them on e-book readers.

 

Premium Content Employment, Shipments, and Profits: The Objects of Inflection?

Published September 12, 2016

Employment and GDP reports did not inspire, and July's printing shipments made us ponder. In the printing profits data, smaller did better, again. Ponder this: have print's gargantuans lost their economies of scale? Big was supposed to be better, smarter, and sturdy. It turns out that the big interest in big printers was of the loan payment kind. If pondering makes you hungry, you might consider some food shopping. They say the price of food is down but, alas, we learn it's just less up.

 

Four of Six Recovery Indicators Fall, Two Now Below Levels of Last Recession

Published September 8, 2016

The recovery indicators were hit hard last month last month, with two of them falling below the levels at the start of the last recession. Those levels were the readings of these indicators for December 2007.

 

US Commercial Printing Shipments Have Rough July

Published September 7, 2016

The reversal in trend for US commercial printing shipments went from somewhat benign to significant in July's data. Last year, the industry was relatively stronger than 2014, but shipments have been on a downturn for the last four months of reporting.

 

Real GDP for Q2 Revised Down Slightly to +1.1%; Durable Goods Orders Still Contracting

Published August 29, 2016

The latest revision of real US GDP for Q2-2016 dropped from +1.2% to +1.1%. The estimate for Q3 from the Atlanta Fed is above +3%.

 

Don't be in the One in Seven

Published August 25, 2016

One in seven US households has negative net worth, according to Bloomberg. It was based on a new report by the New York Federal Reserve. According it Bloomberg, “

 

E-Commerce and US Retail Sales

Published August 25, 2016

E-commerce has been running at the rate of 15% annual growth for many years, but is just 8% of retail sales. That seems tiny in relation to what we've seen happen to print promotions like catalogs and direct mail, and the rise of zombie or troubled shopping malls. The problem is that big ticket items, like autos, raise the size of retail sales. Those items may be researched online, but their actual purchase is not made until it is transacted at a car dealer. Restaurant purchases are also a distorting issue in the data. This chart explains it a little better. E-commerce sales is at the bottom (red line). In the second quarter, it was just short of $100 billion. The blue line is retail sales less vehicles and parts. The green line has food service sales deducted. The black line had e-commerce sales deducted, and shows retail sales through traditional channels. Those sales through older channels are lower than they were at the start of the recession. All of the growth in non-auto and non-restaurant retail for the last decade has occurred in e-commerce channels.

 

Straightforward Economics; Can You be Trusted with “The Good Leads”?

Published August 22, 2016

There are signs of economic slowdown despite what cable's talking heads say. The disparity of consumer prices and printing prices help explain the forces of consolidation and why print businesses need to have a constant review of their costs and value creation capabilies. The Australia Census folks may need to paper over a computer problem. Nothing helps improve sales more than leads, sales leads, the good leads.

 

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