It was an interesting couple of days here at the National Fluid Power Association’s annual Industry and Economic Outlook Conference (IEOC) here at the Westin Chicago North Shore. Most of the analysts and economists roughly agreed that things will remain positive into the early part of 2018, with a modest downturn in 2018-2019. Some highlights include:
Jim Meil, ACT Research: There are some danger signals to watch for a possible recession. These include the Federal Reserve Board continuing to raise rates, Fed funds nearing the 10 Year Treasury level, an upward surge in oil prices, and a 15-20% stock market correction.
The North American economy will continue its gradual expansion with rates of about 2.5% through this year and next. Positive outlooks for Europe and Japan, neutral for developing countries and BRICs.
For fluid power specifically, total fluid power shipments are forecast at a 14% year over year change for 2017 and a 7% year over year change for 2018. Mobile remains the most positive segment at 16% and 9% respectively.
Eli Lustgarten, ESL Consultants: Between 2013 and 2018, global growth has been remarkably stable, with increases from 2.5 to 3.0% Growth did slow in 2016—to 2.3%, the lowest rate since 2009—but world GDP growth is currently improving, with approximately a 2.8% rate this year and 3.0% next year. He also sees a deceleration of growth in emerging markets and China.
For domestic manufacturing specifically, industrial production was influenced by a strong dollar, weak global growth and oil and gas declines. Industrial production stood at -0.1% last year, with some moderate growth seen this year.
Alan Beaulieu, ITR Economics: Ongoing concerns include China, NAFTA and international trade, Brexit, the German elections, the health care debate in the U.S., South America and oil prices. But he sees positive signs, too—banks are lending, consumers are in great shape, retail sales are at record levels, employment is rising and interest rates are still favorable.
Beaulieu said that business will accelerate the remainder of this year, but will slow down in some key markets in 2018. Expect a slightly positive year in 2018 and slightly negative year in 2018 for business. But the economy is on solid footing for economic reasons—and not because of noise from Washington or the presidential election.