The Economist Intelligence Unit is forecasting 2.2% growth in the U.S. in 2012, compared to 1.7% last year.
By Sharon Starr
Sharon Starr, IPC’s Director of Market Research, at IPC Conference on Flexible Circuits, June 13–14, 2012, in Irvine, CA, summarized the state of the flexible market. Beginning with an update on global economic issues, Starr reported that global economic growth is forecast to be 2.2% in 2012, down from 2.5% in 2011. The outcome of the euro zone crisis will have a big impact on worldwide economic growth in the medium term. The U.S. economy is the only one of the G7 economies that is expected to see higher economic growth this year than in 2011. The Economist Intelligence Unit, the source for most of the economic data and forecasts in this presentation, is forecasting 2.2% growth in the U.S. in 2012, compared to 1.7% last year.
While the electronics industry tends to enjoy higher growth rates than the economy, 2011 was slow even in electronics with a global industry growth rate of just 2%. Sinking growth rates in the electronics supply chain have leveled off, but are mostly still negative year on year as of first quarter 2012. (Sources: IPC statistical programs for chemistry, laminate, solder and EMS sales; SIA for semiconductor sales.)
In North America, the IPC Electronics Industry Performance Index reflected the industry’s recovery in 2010 and slowdown in 2011 and first quarter 2012. The leading indicators in IPC’s index forecast gradual improvement in electronics supply chain sales in the second and third quarters of this year. (Source: IPC Electronics Industry Market Data Update, spring 2012)
Estimates from IPC’s World PCB Market Consensus Committee show no growth in the flexible circuit market in 2011, but growth is expected to resume in 2012. IPC’s preliminary estimate of worldwide flexible circuit production in 2011 is $8.5 billion. In 2011, South Korea overtook Japan as the world’s second largest flexible circuit producing country with 18% of world production. China was the largest flex producer with 29%.
The preliminary estimate of North American flexible circuit production in 2011 is $340 million. North America’s share of both rigid PCB and flexible circuit production continues to shrink. Asia now produces 91% of the world’s flexible circuits based on value. Final data will be published in July 2012 in IPC’s World PCB Production Report for the Year 2011.
2011 was a slow year for flexible circuit producers in North America. Of the flexible circuit types, only rigid flex registered positive annual growth. However, the industry in North America is predicting a strong rebound in 2012. Growth is also expected to return to the flexible circuit industry in Asia. Discussion among the conference participants revealed that Asian producers are currently building a substantial amount of new flexible circuit production capacity.
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