Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The glorious colors of fall

We are fast approaching the height of the fall foliage season here in Southern New England. The peak foliage line is just poking into the local area and some pockets of brilliant color are just passing prime.

Purists among the locals will be arguing about the intensity and beauty of the colors for at least two more weeks as the peak period passes prime. Some will credit the long dry summer as the reason colors were less intense, while others will recall the heavy rains of spring as the reason the reds are redder and the golds deeper this year.

I’ve been laying the groundwork for my annual economic review, a process that entails a lot of reading of articles I have accumulated over the preceding months. As I look at these I am struck by the sameness of judging the beauty of this year’s foliage. A case for a sluggish recovery makes sense, but the reports from some of the key public companies run counter. This gives the impression that appearances of sluggishness in the economy are false clues to a mixed bag of active markets that just happen to be in the sectors that favor laser technology.

I was driving along a favorite state highway that is noted for its mix of gold and red foliage, and is usually one of those delightful perspectives especially when the afternoon sun casts oblique light, which draws the most out of the colors. Much to my chagrin, the trees were bare of leaves in the normally glorious section of roadway.

A thought crossed my mind that this could almost be an analogy for the laser system market; colors were mostly sharp, representing the majority of the market that covers lasers used in the energy, semiconductor, medical devices and aerospace industries. But key sites, such as the laser cutting market, were barren, reflecting continued resistance on the part of buyers in this sector. And continuing the thought, this usually bright section of highway was desolate and dull, depressing those who view it, just as the metal cutting market is dragging down market results.

The leaves, for the most part, will be gone from this area by the end of the month, not to be replaced until next spring. Here the analogy falls apart, as the market will likely get a boost from two big trade shows, featuring laser metal cutting, in the coming weeks that will either set the tone for recovery in the coming year or, worst case, continue to reflect a muddled economy.

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