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Y-fronts and machine tools

Written By : SUN FIJI NEWSROOM. One of the hardest tasks for analysts, business people and governments is to understand and forecast the economy. They attempt to do this through
19 Sep 2009 12:00

Written By : SUN FIJI NEWSROOM. One of the hardest tasks for analysts, business people and governments is to understand and forecast the economy.
They attempt to do this through a wide range of economic indicators such as unemployment and inflation.
Forecasting the future can employ some unusual statistics, such as the sales of men’s underwear, or, more traditionally, orders for machine tools.
The theory about men’s underwear, such as Y-fronts, is that they are a necessity, so sales are generally pretty stable.
In difficult financial times, however, men wait longer to replace their worn-out underpants, so sales fall.
One reason for this is that blokes can wear Y-fronts that are faded, holey, or with slack elastic because nobody can see them.
Other clothing, such as shirts, need to be replaced when they are worn because a frayed collar is on display to the world.
Have at look at your underpants, or those of your husband or boyfriend. Are they tatty?
Figures from the United States, reported recently in The Washington Post, show that sales of men’s underwear dropped last year as the recession started to bite and are expected to fall by 2.3% this year.
However, the forecast is that the decline in sales of men’s underwear is expected to slow to just 0.5% next year, indicating we might be headed for better times.
FYI, American men buy an average of 3.4 pairs of underwear a year and in tough times they buy singles rather than multi-packs.
Now, take a peek inside a mechanic’s workshop or small manufacturing company on the industrial side of town.
Chances are you will see something like a drill press or a lathe that is used for making parts out of metal or other materials for the manufactured items that are vital to most of us.
Machine tools can be very simple, such as those in the mechanic’s workshop, to large, complicated devices used by international manufacturing companies.
They are typically relatively expensive to buy and have a long life.
So machine-tool buyers, ranging from the mechanic to the big company, have to think long and hard about the prospects for their business in the future and if there will be enough work to justify the expense of a new machine tool.
For that reason, orders for new machine tools are examined very carefully by analysts to see how economies are likely to perform in the future.
A quick internet search shows the news is not good.
A recent item from Japan, for example, reports that July orders for machine tools are down by 72% over the year.
In Germany, machine tool orders for the first half of 2009 fell by 67% with one industry insider describing orders as being in “veritable meltdown.”
And in the United States, orders at the start of this year were 72% below the same period in 2008. In all, it is a pretty grim picture. The people that make things that we usually buy are not investing in new machinery because they do not expect us to be buying in the future.
But hold on. If we look even more closely at the US figures, we see that while sales are down on a year-on-year basis, they are brighter on a month-on-month basis.
Machine-tool consumption in June was up 22% on May.
Douglas K. Wood, president of the American Machine Tool Distributors Association, said “With total manufacturing technology orders showing positive growth for the second month in a row, we are hopeful that the end is near to the worst single-year decline in our industry’s history.”
So there it is. If you want to get a feel for the future take a look at men’s Y-fronts, or at the equipment in local manufacturing businesses.
If undies and drill presses are old and tired, be worried. If they are nice and new, things are looking up.

Laybuy it 5squares

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