Leading Indicators Offer Optimism for North American PCB Sales
April 4, 2013. While North American manufacturing begins another slow recovery and leading indicators point to modest business expansion in the coming months, the PCB industry has not yet felt the effects of this turnaround, according to the latest edition of IPC North American PCB Market Report. The report, published this week, shows what market segments underlie the disappointing 10% percent contraction in February PCB sales versus February of last year.
The flexible circuit segment was particularly hard hit in February after a strong start to the year in January. “Monthly data can be very volatile, especially in the flexible circuit segment of the PCB industry,” said IPC market research director Sharon Starr. “Actual trends only emerge from several months of data.” Flexible circuit sales in North America strengthened in the second half of 2012, and the book-to-bill ratio for flexible circuits, while in negative territory, has steadily increased since October 2012.
Bookings increased slightly in the rigid PCB segment in February 2013, pushing the total PCB book-to-bill ratio up to 1.06. After a long, slow decline in 2012, the PCB book-to-bill ratio has been positive since January 2013. The ratio reflects the 3-month rolling averages of orders over sales and is a 3- to 6-month leading indicator for sales growth.
“The decline in PCB sales from January to February was a bit surprising in light of seasonal trends, but it reflects the negative book-to-bill ratios in the fourth quarter of 2012,” added Starr. “The ratio has been trending up for the past three months and is now in positive territory. This suggests that the PCB industry’s recovery is merely delayed and we hope to see some improvement in the coming months.”
The IPC North American PCB Market Report includes detailed monthly data for specific types of PCBs sold in North America as well as PCB sales trends in the military and medical markets. It is published monthly and is available by subscription.