All the Wrong Indicators

I’m beginning to think that we are easily fooled. Last week at SemiCon West I had two or three folks approach me and ask whether I’m hearing that things are slowing down. And yes, anecdotally, there are reports. But anecdotes aren’t the big picture, they are little and often inconsequential pieces of it.

Almost all the best indicators suggest that the markets continue to move along at a moderate pace.

Yesterday, Deutsche Bank forecast demand for Macs and iPods to ramp in the second half, driven by the back-to-school season, robust demand for the MacBook, an updated Power Mac desktop and new applications being ported to Intel-based systems. The firm also expects a refresh of the entire iPod line by the fourth quarter and believe the iPhone will ramp in six to nine months, supporting growth into next year.

Today’s news was twofold. The Conference Board, an industry-backed research group based in New York, said its Index of Leading Economic Indicators rose 0.1% to 138.1 in June — suggesting continued economic growth — after it declined 0.6% in May and 0.1% in April. The index is watched closely because it’s designed to predict economic activity three to six months in the future.

Of the 10 indicators that comprise the index, two that incorporate electronics were positive: average weekly manufacturing hours and manufacturers’ new orders for new nondefense capital goods. A third, manufacturers’ new orders for consumer goods and materials, was steady.

Also on Thursday, Benchmark Electronics announced a 33% gain in sales for its June quarter and upped its full year guidance.

My belief is that we are seeing a return to some seasonality and that business will pick up in Q3.

In any period of moderate growth, one will see conflicting signs. Let’s not let our nervous natures be tricked into thinking that a true slowdown is imminent.

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About Mike

Mike Buetow is president of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association ( He previously was editor-in-chief of Circuits Assembly magazine, the leading publication for electronics manufacturing, and PCD&F, the leading publication for printed circuit design and fabrication. He spent 21 years as vice president and editorial director of UP Media Group, for which he oversaw all editorial and production aspects. He has more than 30 years' experience in the electronics industry, including six years at IPC, an electronics trade association, at which he was a technical projects manager and communications director. He has also held editorial positions at SMT Magazine, community newspapers and in book publishing. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois. Follow Mike on Twitter: @mikebuetow