2018 experienced a year of pump priming unlike any other during an economic growth period in our lifetimes. The US tax bill made significant revisions to the tax code, slashing taxes for (higher-income) individuals and corporations. The corporate rate alone was cut 14 percentage points, to 21%.
Moreover, taxes on profits held by US companies abroad were cut by 20 percentage points or more. That facilitated the repatriation of those cash reserves — estimated by Bank of America at $3.5 trillion, or more than 1/5th the size of the annual US GDP.
As those gains worked their way through the system, the effects included corporate buying sprees that topped anything we’d seen in at least a decade. Business capital investment budgets swelled, and suppliers’ bottom lines ballooned.
The bloom is off the rose, I’m afraid. While not a free fall, the economic reality today is that buyers are cooling off and budgets are returning to more conservative positions. Several EMS firms are guiding for slowing business conditions, and now fabricators are reporting the same. End-markets like automotive are leveling, which will have a ripple effect across the entire supply-chain.
No one likes a cynic, especially so close to the holiday season. But my advice is to go easy on the parties while aggressively going after market share. A large customer base is the best hedge against a slowing economy.