Purchasing chiefs see sharp upturn in economic pulse

Corporate purchasing managers report the pace of the economy is quickening, with production and new orders increasing sharply in February. Employment continued its steady rise, and inventories grew at an exceptionally fast rate, compared with January.

The report, released today by the National Association of Purchasing Management, did, however, detect that prices were higher than in any month in more than 10 years.

The 29,000-member association compiles its survey monthly, based on data from purchasing managers of 250 industrial companies; 21 industries from 41 states are represented on the committee. These were the details:

* Members again reported higher employment. The report has registered increases in employment each month since June.

* Production picked up again in February. Members' reports of lower production were the fewest since September of 1972.

* Reports of fewer new orders dropped to their lowest since April 1973.

* The report indicated that inventories are building to accommodate the expanding economy.

* Little change was detected in February, except for a slight move to the 60 -day position in buying maintenance, repair, and operating supplies. Capital spending continued a gradual upward trend that began a year ago.

* Prices climbed again in February. Forty-three percent of respondents reported higher prices, the largest number since July 1981.

* Shipments from suppliers slowed for the 13th consecutive month. With the pace of new orders as high as they are, suppliers' order backlogs are increasing.

* Industrial raw materials going up in price were aluminum, steel, steel scrap, castings, copper, silver, resins, industrial fuel oil, home heating oil, propane, paper and paper products, packaging materials, and corrugated shipping containers. Caustic soda dropped. Integrated circuits, semiconductors, and miscellaneous electrical components were in short supply.

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