Technology manufacturers may be in for a happier new year if late 2003 trends continue into 2004. In a research report issued Wednesday, Merrill Lynch analyst Steve Milunovich says computer hardware orders--including PCs, servers, and telecom gear--are "positive and accelerating year over year." Orders for tech hardware rose 23.7% in September compared with the previous year, and grew 27.3% in October and 11.9% in November.
Actual shipments in those months grew 8.2%, 10.7%, and 9.9%, respectively. In November 2002, orders for technology hardware declined 6.1% compared with November 2001.
Book-to-bill numbers--a ratio that measures product demand in an industry by comparing orders received by manufacturers to products shipped--are also improving. Higher numbers indicate stronger demand. Book-to-bill for technology hardware in November was 1, compared with 0.97 the previous year. Book-to-bill in October was 1.11 and 1.1 in September.
November's orders, shipments, and book-to-bill ratios are weaker than those recorded in September and October, but Milunovich notes in his report that November tends to be the weakest month.