Uncertainty is the enemy of business, and the “fiscal cliff” battle between the Obama White House and Congressional Republicans has continued levels of uncertainty well beyond an election that was supposed to set more of a clear path, one way or another, again. Still, one business segment in the United States appears to be immune, at least in recent weeks.
Automotive sales surged at the best clip in more than four years, according to statistics unveiled Tuesday. Sales in the category increased by 15% to a level of just over 1.1 million for November, as consumers ignored the potential for tax increases and a government standoff in deference to replacing aging cars and (non-industrial) trucks. Experts also note that the Hurricane Sandy aftermath helped substantially in providing a regional bump in the Northeast.
The news was positive, somewhat surprising and almost certainly needed/helpful since it came about 24 hours after the Institute for Supply Management reported manufacturing levels at their lowest domestically since summer 2009. The disappointing results, unlike those of auto statistics, were pinned by the Institute almost exclusively on the fiscal cliff budget issues in Washington, D.C. And the index wasn’t just a little off – its troubling 49.5 reading was below the 50 mark that divides expansion from contraction. Even during the recession’s massively underwhelming early recovery days, manufacturing generally tracked above the 50 level.
-Brian Shappell, CBA, NACM staff writer