Monday, February 13, 2012

First you say you do and then you say you don't

Forecasting may be the easy part, explaining why you got it wrong after publishing it is the
hard part. So I was pleased to read, in an article by Casselman and Izzo in the February 13th Wall Street Journal, that I wasn’t theonly one that guessed wrong on the 2011 economy. It seems that 52 economists WSJ surveyed weren’t great forecasters as they predicted the economy would move forward and things were looking good. Then, as they say, “all hell broke loose” followed by one in Thailand and the economy tanked in Europe and all bets on a good year were off. As the Journal says, “The results reflect the inherent uncertainty of economic prognostication.”
For my part I went the other way on the industrial laser economy and took a more conservative approach. The result, I missed the record year number and had to do a fast shuffle at the end of November to get a more reasonable number in print in the January issue of ILS.
The Association for Manufacturing Technology just reported their calendar 2011 numbers. December U.S. manufacturing technology orders were up 12.2% from November and up 12.7% when compared with the total of $461.48 million reported for December 2010. For the year 2011 was up 66.4% compared with 2010, making 2011 the strongest year in more than a decade and higher than forecasters predicted.
I had noted the strength in the U.S. manufacturing sector but frankly was reticent to report it, as were many other analysts. We were all waiting for the proverbial other shoe, a double dip recession, to drop, month after month, until it became a non-issue in the fourth quarter.
Now I am reconsidering my forecast for 2012, especially since the WSJ economists are predicting only a modestly fast growth in 2012. They got it wrong last year and who says they won’t this year. Their track record isn’t great.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Good times in the city by the bay

Optimism with caution was the rule-of-the-day among the dozens of exhibitors we interviewed at this year's Photonics West, held in San Francisco last week. This show has grown from an
intra-industry event to one of the world’s premier international photonics exhibitions now expanding into the field of industrial laser material processing equipment.

If it hadn’t been for the continuing mixed economic news from Europe, the gloom and doom of feature stories in the media, and the playoff loss of the local San Francisco 49’s professional football team, nobody would have had any complaints. And why not –about 20,000 visitors, presenters, and exhibitors helped to set an attendance record for show and conference. Almost 1200 exhibitors filled two halls at the Moscone Center, and from the opening bell, the aisles were full of enthusiastic lookers and

Earlier in the week, at the Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar, I had presented a glowing picture of the 2011 market and forecasts for a good but not great 2012. My remarks were corroborated by exhibitors who had attended the seminar with the general consensus being that a modest mid-single digit growth on 2012 coupled with the phenomenal 2011 growth wouldn't be all that bad.

If there was one drag among show-goers, it was the nagging news that suppliers were playing it close to the vest in terms of increasing employment and that Capex was being monitored

From the long dinner lines at area restaurants, it seemed that Photonics West was an economic boom for expense spending, and city officials might take note and lay out a more welcoming carpet for next year's event. You wouldn't even know we were in town, if talking to cab drivers is any indication. Or maybe the laid-back Silicon Valley residents are blasé when it comes to exciting technology shows and