Mixed in with guarded optimism, panel comments also noted some market softness and uncertainty about the policy course being charted by Washington. Nevertheless, buoyed by a surge of respondents reporting better conditions the current conditions index moved to 72.2, which is the highest reading in nearly 4 years. Most of the movement came from fewer panelists reporting unchanged conditions: only 22 percent in January versus 44 percent last month. Although some of that exodus resulted in a 6 point increase in those seeing worse conditions, 61 percent registered better conditions now compared to 44 percent in December.
The survey’s measure of the intensity of change in electroindustry business conditions continued to move further into positive territory, as the mean rating increased from +0.4 in December to +0.6 this month. Even the median measure, usually stuck on 0, increased to 1. Panelists are asked to report intensity of change on a scale ranging from –5 (deteriorated significantly) through 0 (unchanged) to +5 (improved significantly).
Optimism for six months out was unblemished by even one respondent who expected worse conditions. In December, six percent had expressed misgivings. Combining the absence of expectations for worse conditions with 11 percent fewer responses foreseeing unchanged conditions boosted the future index to a near-record high of 91.7.