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Class 8 Orders Hit 7-Month Low

June 5, 2017

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Heavy- and medium-duty truck orders are projected at 38,100 units combined in May, falling 11% from the previous month, according to ACT Research. The numbers are preliminary and the final order numbers will be published in mid-June.

At 16,800 units, North American Class 8 truck orders hit the lowest point in the past seven months, shrinking 30% from April. Despite the declines, truck orders are still 18% better than in the same month a year ago.

“While the magnitude of the decline is greater than expected, the timing is spot on,” said Steve Tam, vice president at ACT Research. “May is typically the time of the year when order intake drops below average.”

Speaking about its own preliminary May numbers, FTR commented that the decline was part of an expected summer slump.

“The order numbers are not that worrisome, considering the steady volume of orders over the past seven months," said Don Ake, vice president of commercial vehicles at FTR. "It appears the typical summer order slump just showed up one month early. It does indicate the market is functioning normally and there is a steady, not robust, upward trend. The slowdown in order activity will give the OEMs a chance to get production lined up with demand."

Class 5-7 truck orders were actually 13% better than in April, and 22% more than in the same month in 2016. May is typically a below average month for medium-duty truck orders, according to ACT.

“Differentiating May from April is the fact that all of the month-over-month decline in May resulted from a dramatic slowing in heavy duty order intake,” said Tam. “Despite the month-over-month decline, May’s combined heavy duty and medium-duty volume bested May 2016 by 20%.”

"Six consecutive months of Class 8 order strength well in excess of fundamentals ended abruptly," wrote Michael Baudendistel of investment group Stifel in an email to investors, noting that since order season for 2017 trucks began in earnest in October, the industry has booked net orders of 164,188 units, up 8% year over year and far better than expectations at the start of order season.

"The YTD order intake remains above our prior production outlook, which calls for a full-year decline of 6%, which we believe remains justified given a ~5% inventory headwind, lower build-rates in 1Q, and potential for summer order weakness," Baudendistel noted. "Still, if OEMs were to build at or near the 2Q build plan in the back half of the year, which will be dependent on the direction of orders in the next few months, our 2017 production outlook could again increase. For now, however, we are maintaining our 2017 Class 8 production outlook of 215,000 units, which is below ACT’s 228,000-unit forecast."

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