#377. More Good Manufacturing News

Posted on | The Agurban
More Good Manufacturing News 
Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal had a great article about the U.S. manufacturing resurgence. The Great Reversal: Playing the U.S. Manufacturing Boom, by columnist Jack Hough, appeared in the April 7, 2012 edition. Below are some excerpts.In March, manufacturing expanded for the 32nd straight month, and contributed 37,000 of the 120,000 U.S. jobs added, the government reported. That’s partly because of the ongoing recovery from the Great Recession. But the economy is also changing.

Manufacturing’s share of gross domestic product plunged to 11% in 2009 from 26% in 1947, according to the Commerce Department. In 2010, it rose to 11.7%-the biggest yearly gain in more than 50 years.

Three trends suggest America’s “manufacturing renaissance” is just getting started, says Neil Dutta, U.S. economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. First, the cost advantages of outsourcing factory work are narrowing. Emerging market wages, while still much lower than U.S. wages, are rising, and high oil prices have made shipping more expensive. That is expanding the range of goods U.S. factories can produce at competitive prices (think sophisticated machines, not toys).

Second, a weakening dollar makes U.S. goods more attractive to foreign buyers. The dollar has fallen by nearly one-third over the past decade against a basket of currencies including the euro, British pound and yen.

Third, energy production is booming in the U.S., and domestic natural-gas prices have recently plunged. That gives an edge to U.S. producers of fabricated steel, transportation equipment, machinery and chemicals, which use natural gas extensively, according to a recent report from 

Of course, a sudden rise in the dollar or a spike in natural-gas prices or wages could slow U.S. manufacturing gains. But for now, at least, that scenario appears unlikely. Wall Street expects earnings for the S&P 500 industrial sector to rise 13% this year, versus 9% for the broader index.

U.S. Steel and Nucor are the largest U.S. steelmakers, and analysts say both can reduce their domestic production costs by switching from coal to natural gas where possible.

When it comes to U.S. manufacturing, says Kristina Hooper, head of portfolio strategies at Allianz Global Investors, “It’s time to stop looking in the rearview mirror and start looking ahead.”

Stay tuned…