Industrials sector overview
Global manufacturing improvement appears to have leveled off, while U.S. manufacturing remains in expansionary territory. However, concerns about a trade war could put a damper on the group, although the tax cuts should help to dampen that potential disappointment.
Market outlook for the industrials sector
Global manufacturing has shown improvement although the rate of improvement, as would be expected, appears to be flattening out, with recent Purchasing Managers’ Index readings in most major countries staying in territory depicting expansion. Europe has slipped modestly but remains in positive territory. However, trade issues have flared up concerns about a trade war that could threaten the profitability of this very globally oriented sector, with 45% of the sector’s revenue coming from foreign sources, according to Strategas Research. We continue to be encouraged that all sides are continuing to negotiate, but don’t completely discount the possibility of an escalating trade war, and the escalating rhetoric has dented performance of the sector recently.
In the U.S., the Institute for Supply Management's Manufacturing Index remained quite strong in its June release, coming in at a solid 58.7, while the forward-looking new order component posted a robust 63.7 reading. Anything above 50 means an expansion in manufacturing activity. However, there were hopes at the beginning of last year that fiscal stimulus would be forthcoming and those hopes appear to be diminishing with the rancor in Washington, which has the potential to be a temporary weight on the group. But the recent budget agreement raised the U.S. military budget to $700 billion for 2018—a record high, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Overall, we have concerns but they're somewhat balanced out, which results in our relatively neutral view.
Factors that may affect the industrials sector
Positive factors for the industrials sector include:
- Potential productivity gains: Corporate balance sheets remain relatively cash-rich, which should help push management teams to invest in new, more-efficient equipment to help offset weaker productivity.
- Room for growth: Relatively low manufacturing inventories signal the possibility of a demand-inspired rebuilding phase.
- Accommodative monetary policy: Excluding the Federal Reserve, central banks throughout much of the developed world are maintaining accommodative policies aimed at stimulating economic activity. Additionally, on the fiscal side, countries are considering undoing some of their more stringent austerity-related policies, which could help to boost economic activity and demand for industrial goods.
Negative factors for industrials include:
- Fiscal austerity: We continue to watch fiscal austerity measures around the world, which could dampen growth in the industrials sector. For now countries seem to be moving to scale them back.
- More aggressive Fed action: Should inflation start to reach concerning levels, the central bank could raise rates more aggressively, which would likely dent industrial shares.
- Trade concerns: As trade dispute rhetoric ramps up, concerns are growing that a damaging trade dispute could ensue.
Clients can see our top-rated stocks in the industrials sector.
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