The latest forecastcalls for sunshine

(FORTUNE Magazine) - For a second consecutive quarter, nine of every ten representatives of both large and small manufacturing companies responding to our survey were optimistic about their business outlook.

Specifically, 90% of large manufacturing companies (those that employ more than 1,000 workers) and 91% of small and midsize ones surveyed in the first quarter of 2006 said they were optimistic about their business outlook over the next 12 months. (The past two quarters are the only times in the eight-year history of the NAM/FORTUNE Manufacturing Index in which both groups have registered levels of optimism at or above 90%.)

Companies in both categories expect their sales to increase by an identical 5.1% over the coming 12 months. That is a modest drop for large firms from the fourth-quarter 2005 survey, when they expected their sales over the coming 12 months to rise by 5.5%.

For small firms the sales outlook represents an increase from the previous survey's figure of 4.7%. Large-company respondents believe the prices they receive will rise by 2.1% over the coming year. For small firms, the figure is 2.2%. In the fourth-quarter 2005 survey, both large and smaller firms expected to see prices increase by 2.4% over the coming 12 months. Top of page