Some respondents to NEMA’s EBCI survey were reporting healthy business in March, but most respondents were already reporting worsening conditions by the middle of the month. The current conditions component, with a majority of panel members reporting worse conditions, shrunk to 31.3 points in March from last month’s reading of 50.
Most of the responses were submitted prior to the wave of state-imposed “stay in place” and lockdown orders and so appear to be more reflective of reduced demand driven by uncertainty than by the effect of planned shutdowns.
The ElectroIndustry Business Conditions Index (EBCI) is a monthly survey of senior executives at electrical manufacturers published by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), Rosslyn, VA. Any score over the 50-point level indicates a greater number of panelists see conditions improving than see them deteriorating.
Although it too pulled back sharply in March, the future conditions index and associated comments nevertheless retained a slightly hopeful air. As with the current conditions measure, a surge in the proportion of responses expecting worse conditions in six months left the forward-looking component at 43.8 points after having reached 63.9 points in February.
Again, the shift in tactics by policymakers largely occurred after most questionnaires had been submitted. Some respondents expected the situation to worsen, while others hoped the main effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will have passed. One remark captured the situation most businesses are facing: “Cannot even forecast at this point.”