South leads manufacturing index

Food manufacturers are reporting buoyant times. Photo: Getty.
Food manufacturers are reporting buoyant times. Photo: Getty.
Manufacturing in Otago and Southland led the country in August, reaching a 21-month high as measured by the BNZ-BusinessNZ Performance of Manufacturing Index.

The Otago-Southland Employers Association reported manufacturing activity at 61.2 points for the month. Canterbury-Westland Employers and Manufacturers Association had activity of 57.7, Business Central was 57 and the Northern EMA was 56.9.The national index was 57.9, up from 55.5 in July.

Otago-South Employers Association chief executive Virginia Nicholls said the 61.2 was well above the average of the year of 53.6.

The index had steadily increased for the region since January’s low reading of 42.6. In August last year, activity was rated at 42.8.

The regional breakdown in categories were all in expansion. New orders were 68.2, production was 61.4, delivery of raw materials 58.1, employment levels 56.8 and stocks of finished products 52.3.

"With new orders and production at this level of expansion, this is encouraging for manufacturers now, as we head into the summer season."

Manufacturers in expansion included food and beverage manufacturers supplying supermarkets.

Builders, metal product manufacturers and engineering companies were busy with a variety of projects including construction, housing, infrastructure and the irrigation sector.

Boat builders were continuing to thrive, supplying the domestic and export markets. ManufacturingNZ chief executive Catherine Beard said as expansion improved during August, the proportion of positive comments increased to 65%, well up on the 56.1% recorded in July, although still lower than 68.2% in June. In terms of specific comments, there were some who outlined increased orders from Australia, while various negative comments mentioned uncertainty concerning the upcoming election.

BNZ senior economist, Craig Ebert, said although the election polls are equivocal, the PMI was nothing of the sort.

"It picked up to a perky 57.9 in August, which puts it even further above its long-term average of 53.3, making it relatively rapid.

"Underlying this, the regional impetus has become much more uniform after the South Island was lagging the North Island at the same stage last year."

Medium-to-large-sized firms had gone from slow to "go-go" in the last 12 months. Firms of a lesser size had held on to a steady pulse of growth, he said.

The employment index of the PMI should not be overlooked, as it rose to 56.7 in August from 56.5 in July.

For a series averaging 50.6 since the inception of the index in August 2002, those were "booming results".

"This index has proved to be a good pointer to official measures of employment, Mr Ebert said.

"The PMI jobs index also offers general support to the idea the fall we saw in the Household Labour Force Survey’s measure of total employment in the second quarter was largely a technical issue, rather than a real one."

The New Zealand PMI remained a standout on the international stage but manufacturing activity around the world was sure to be increasing, he said. The JP Morgan and HIS Markit global manufacturing index edged up to 53.1 in August.

Although that might sound ordinary by comparison to New Zealand, it was the most expansive since 2011.

It coincided with a more concerted impetus to global growth across countries and country blocs after a relatively slow and disjointed 2016.

In respect to Australia’s economy, it was showing a firmer path for non-mining investment which was typically good for manufacturing industries, Mr Ebert said.

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