Data tracked by the Material Handling Industry of America (MHIA) show some promising prospects for economic recovery in 2003. New orders for material handling equipment rose 3.2 percent in the third quarter of 2002, as compared to the same period in 2001. Although new orders were down by more than 12 percent for the 12-mon t h period that ended on Oct. 31, 2002, there are signs of hope.
"We think the business investment environment in 2003 will be improved over 2002," says Hal Vandiver, executive vice president of business development at the Charlotte, N.C.-based MHIA. "We are already seeing some positive signs this quarter as the update demonstrates." Vandiver points to data that show capital spending is expected to improve by 4 to 5 percent compared to 2002, supported by improved corporate profits. "Industrial output is also expected to improve, probably in the 3.5- to 4.5-percent range," he says, "while capacity utilization will remain in the 76- to 77-percent range throughout most of the year."
"Our forecast for material handling equipment manufacturing is that new orders will improve 7 to 9 percent; shipments will lag but improve 3 to 5 percent for 2003," Vandiver adds. "There are some down side issues that have to do with confidence more than anything else, in our opinion. Pending Middle East turmoil is probably the biggest risk to confidence due to the uncertainty that it causes."