Demand down, but prices up

The end markets that purchase factory equipment and tools are slowing (or falling) noticeably now. For instance, in the 12-month period ending June 2001, end markets for welding apparatus (SIC 3548) fell 2.6%.With demand slowing so sharply, one would expect to see price inflation for equipment and tools slowing as well.


The end markets that purchase factory equipment and tools are slowing (or falling) noticeably now. For instance, in the 12-month period ending June 2001, end markets for welding apparatus (SIC 3548) fell 2.6%.

With demand slowing so sharply, one would expect to see price inflation for equipment and tools slowing as well. Not this time around. Among 19 industries that comprise our equipment and tools price index, only four reported a slowdown in inflation for their industries' product prices. Overall, the equipment and tools price index rose 0.5% in the second quarter of 2001, up from a 0.1% rate in the final quarter of 2000.

The rationale for price hikes varies from industry to industry, and factory buyers shouldn't accept every price increase without question. For example, consider process control instruments. This industry (SIC 3823) pushed through a 1.3% price increase in the 12-month period ending June 2001. Looking at just one month, buyers saw average industry prices edge down 0.1% between May and June.

And when we look at prices for specific product lines, we see plenty of inflation. In June, average prices for float and displacement instruments and associated elements increased 4.5%, while controllers for pressure measuring instruments logged a 2.3% price hike.

Inflation-adjusted margins in SIC 3823 remain almost exactly equal to their long-run norm and are above a year ago. That suggests buyers of process control instruments shouldn't be bashful about pressing for discounts. Indeed, tags in SIC 3823 would have to fall as much as 7.74% in order to duplicate the margin experience of six years ago.

Price/cost/demand roundup

Average Product Prices1Change, %, During 12-Mo Ending...Direct Mfg. Costs2and Margins GradeGrowth in U.S. End Markets3Change, %, During 12-Mo Ending...
IndustrySICMar 01June 01Costs are...GradeMar 01June 01
Other hand and edge tools34230.980.99StableA3.302.01
Hand saws and saw blades34250.290.09StableC2.371.00
Other hardware34291.651.57StableB0.25-1.14
Other power transmission equipment35681.031.35StableA3.560.15
Conveyors and conveying equipment35351.391.58StableA6.083.88
Hoists, cranes and monorails35361.931.96StableA+4.753.50
Industrial trucks and tractors35371.531.83StableA+6.734.14
Metal-cutting machine tools35410.750.85StableC15.5710.34
Machine tool accessories35451.301.45StableB8.384.03
Power driven hand tools35460.711.35StableB2.251.29
Welding apparatus35482.092.11StableA-0.35-2.56
Pumps and pumping equipment35611.841.85StableA2.260.63
Air and gas compressors35631.171.61StableA+2.260.63
Speed changers, drives and gears35662.252.25StableB3.560.15
Motors and generators36210.300.46StableF19.7915.71
Process control instruments38231.161.29StableC-3.58-4.79
Fluid meters and counting devices38242.633.11StableD-3.58-4.79
Instruments to measure electricity38251.311.10StableF49.6534.55
1 Average product price changes are calculated from the producer price index for each 4-digit SIC (standard industrial classification) industry from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
2 Analyses of each industry's direct manufacturing cost changes are from Thinking Cap Solutions, Inc.'s proprietary Industry Cost Escalation (ICE) model. The "grade" indicates that recent price/cost changes have produced record high (A+) margins to average margins (C) to record low (F-) margins for the average producer in an industry. Grades of A to A+ mean plant engineers may be able to strike a better bargain with suppliers and better control plant costs.
3 Growth in U.S. end markets data are from the ICE model and are estimates of output for the domestic end markets which purchase a given industry's products.
All data prepared and presented by Thinking Cap Solutions, Inc., Port Angeles, WA (telephone: 360-452-6159; e-mail:

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