Printed circuit board (PCB) shipments was the one North American industry sector in this analysis that showed signs of growth in March, based on three-month rolling averages. The three-month rolling averages of electronics manufacturing services (EMS) and semiconductor sales continued to slip, as well as U.S. new orders for electronic equipment.
U.S. new orders for electronic products tend to lead sales by one to two months. PCB sales lead EMS sales by several months, which is a positive sign for growth in other industry segments later this year.
Another leading indicator is IPC's PCB book-to-bill ratio, which normally leads PCB sales by three to six months. Ratios were positive in the first 10 months of 2015, slumped in the fourth quarter, but then rebounded. They were positive throughout the first quarter of 2016 and it currently stands at 1.02 as of March. Ratios above parity (1.00) indicate greater demand than supply, which may be a precursor of strengthening sales for electronics manufacturers.
All data cited in this report are based on rolling averages of the past three months, which irons out some of the volatility in monthly data to show clearer trends.