Maybe those long lines of attendees at the FABTECH trade show last year weren’t red herrings. The Institute for Supply Management reported significant growth in manufacturing last month, news significant enough to send stocks skyward.
News coverage has been cautious, especially considering what happened 12 months ago. Stocks rose in January and throughout the first few months of 2011, only to plummet as the economy experienced one black swan event after another. Japan’s earthquakes and flooding in Southeast Asia and here in the states disrupted supply chains. The Arab Spring and European debt crisis has continued to add to our uncertainty, as well as, of course, that stubbornly high unemployment rate. So yes, if I were reacting to today’s market rise, I’d be glass-half-empty, too.
But U.S. manufacturing still seems to have a lot going for it these days. China’s government announced on Dec. 1 that its manufacturing was contracting just as labor disputes were expanding. The Asian factory worker is unhappy, and justifiably so. Ian Spaulding, managing director of the consultancy Infact Global Partners, had some insightful remarks for Bloomberg about China’s sputtering manufacturing engine. “In an environment where you have 10 to 20 percent turnover a month, managers start thinking of workers as machines. That creates resentments on both sides.”