Spring brings signs of growth for most industry segments

This spring has brought some of the worst weather the U.S. has ever seen. On the economic front, the signs are more springlike, with more signs of growth than gloom.

The IPC Electronics Industries Market Data Update (available free to IPC members) has plenty of bright spots. In nearly every field, stats for the first quarter of 2011 are markedly better than similar figures for a year ago. EMS sales and orders were up 26 and 18 percent, respectively. Assembly equipment sales were even better, up 44 percent.

Both rigid and flexible board sales were up. At around 7 and 9 percent they weren’t as robust as some other markets, but solid growth feels good after the past few years.

The report still shows that we’ve got a ways to go before all segments have bright prospects. Rigid board orders were down this year vs. last year, as were solder sales. Throughout the electronics industry supply chain, first quarter figures slowed compared to the fourth quarter, showing signs of a slowing growth trajectory.

Overall, there are many signs that we’re entering a steady growth period that may well be sustainable. The IPC Index of North American Electronics Industry Performance, which integrates data trends from all key segments of the electronic interconnect industry and leading indicators, stood at 13.5 during the first quarter. That slow but steady pace may not be very exciting, but it’s still preferable to some alternatives.

After all the storms we’ve had to weather the past few years, a period of calm is not necessarily such a bad thing. These comprehensive reports are available to IPC members every quarter.  For information on joining to gain benefits such as access to IPC studies and reports, e-mail NealBender@ipc.org.

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