Mold orders and optimism are strong, though capacity utilization is slightly lower.

Click Image to Enlarge

a Cumulative national averages over many surveys.

a An adjustment factor is used where data did not already include profit and labor. b Relative to highest-cost region (which equals 100); value shown is a weighted average for all size ranges. c Weighted geographically according to Plastics Technology’s Manufacturing Census

Our index of custom injection molders’ machine-hour rates rose 0.6% for the first half of the year. That’s much smaller than the 1.6% increase for the second half of 2013. Responses from 85 plants nationwide indicate that 22% of plants raised their rates, 8% lowered them, and 69% left them unchanged.

At 56.4%, custom injection molders’ average capacity utilization in the first half dropped 1.1 points from the previous six-month period. Still 42% of respondents saw higher utilization, while 19% had lower utilization, and 33% were unchanged. The ratio of higher to lower utilization was the highest since mid-2011.

Mold orders  were up 5.2%, again the highest increase since the first half of 2011. Molders were optimistic about near-term business conditions. Over 64% expected improving conditions (down slightly from the previous survey), 22% saw no change ahead, while 11% foresaw worsening conditions (a bit more than previously).