Third quarter manufacturing barometers show optimism and headwinds

Taking a look at two manufacturing barometers for the third quarter of 2013 provides a glimpse of what lies ahead. It's the good news/bad news scenario, which seems to be the norm for 2013. The Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI) Business Outlook advanced to 66 from 58 in the second quarter's survey, the third straight quarterly advance and the highest level since the December 2011 reading of 66.

MAPI's composite business outlook index is based on a weighted sum of the prospective U.S. shipments, backlog orders, inventory and profit margin indexes. The views of 51 senior financial executives representing a broad range of manufacturing industries are distilled into 13 individual indexes split between current business conditions and forward looking prospects. Of those 13 indexes, nine individual indexes increased and four declined.

For the current business condition indexes, the index shot up to 70 from 53 in the previous report, with the export orders index for the same time period rose to 61 from 45 in the second quarter. Another double-digit jump was present in the profit margin index, which increased to 68 in the third quarter from 56 in the previous quarter....

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