Credit Managers' Index for October Falls to 54.4

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The National Association of Credit Management’s (NACM) economic report for October 2012 fell almost a full point largely on poor performances from sales and collections numbers. More payments are beyond terms as well, indicating companies are struggling to meet obligations.

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Given that many companies continue to indicate that they are planning more capital expenditures, there is not much to attribute this drop to other than worry about the outcome of the fiscal cliff issue.

The October Credit Managers’ Index fell from 55.3 to 54.4, reflecting the mood of the overall economy right now. Some aspects point in a positive direction, and some are decidedly worrying. The sense is that a few of the big issues that have been affecting other economic measures are having an impact on the CMI as well. It is hard to point explicitly at the “fiscal cliff” as a cause for overall decline, but it is also quite apparent that the uncertainty affecting business decision-making is having an impact, as some of the future indicators are weaker than expected at this point.

The most distressing number in this month’s survey, and the one that seems to point to the fiscal cliff issue, would be sales. The October sales number has fallen as low as it has been since the middle of last year, settling in at 57.4. In July, the sales index dipped under 60 for the first time since November 2011, but in August there was a strong rebound to 62. That was followed by September’s slip to barely back under 60 to 59.5. "Given that many companies continue to indicate that they are planning more capital expenditures, there is not much to attribute this drop to other than worry about the outcome of the fiscal cliff issue," said Chris Kuehl, PhD, economist for the National Association of Credit Management (NACM). "The silver lining in this case would be that a solution to the crisis would likely result in a jump in capital expenditures and investment in general. The downside is that the powers that be could still allow the unthinkable to occur."

In most respects, the other favorable factors stayed comfortably above the 50 mark despite the fact that all four categories slipped. Amount of credit extended is still solidly in the low 60s with a reading of 62.2. New credit applications slid from 57.4 to 56.6, the lowest since late last year. Dollar collections moved downward pretty sharply from 58.5 to 54.6. "This is cause for some concern as this is the lowest reading for collections in over a year," said Kuehl. "There is mounting evidence that the business community is retrenching to some extent." It should be noted, however, that the reading is still in the mid-50s and well into expansion territory, just like the overall favorable factor index, which fell to 57.7.

The unfavorable factors also saw some decline, but nothing as dramatic as in the favorable factor numbers. The shift in the unfavorable factor index from September to October was very slight, a decline from 52.6 to 52.3. This slow erosion and essentially flat performance since the August reading of 53.1 is better news than one would assume given all the struggles that the economy has been plodding through of late.

Dollar amount beyond terms sported the biggest decline as it slipped from 51 to 48. In the past, this has indicated that companies are starting to struggle to meet their obligations, and in the months to come some of the other negatives start to accelerate. There was also a decline in dollar amount of customer deductions from 51 to 50.7, and filings for bankruptcies sagged as well from 59.1 to 58.9. Thus far, the bottom has not dropped out of the unfavorable categories indicating that there is time for a rebound, but past patterns suggest that these numbers will look worse in months to come unless there is a shift in economic fortunes.

Some unfavorable factors did improve, although the movement was pretty slight. There was a gain in rejections of credit applications from 51.4 to 52. Likewise, there was a gain in accounts placed for collection from 52.5 to 53. Even disputes improved slightly from 50.5 to 50.9.

The complete CMI report for October 2012 contains more commentary, complete with tables and graphs. CMI archives may also be viewed on NACM’s website.

About the National Association of Credit Management

NACM, headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, supports more than 15,000 business credit and financial professionals worldwide with premier industry services, tools and information. NACM and its network of affiliated associations are the leading resource for credit and financial management information, education, products and services designed to improve the management of business credit and accounts receivable. NACM’s collective voice has influenced federal legislative policy results concerning commercial business and trade credit to our nation’s policy makers for more than 100 years, and continues to play an active part in legislative issues pertaining to business credit and corporate bankruptcy. Its annual Credit Congress is the largest gathering of credit professionals in the world.

NACM has a wealth of member experts in the fields of business-to-business credit and law. Consider using NACM as a resource in the development of your next credit or finance story.

Source: National Association of Credit Management

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Caroline Zimmerman

Jacob Barron, CICP
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