The US Bureau of Economic Analysis released its preliminary report on second quarter 2013 US GDP, along with both major revisions to US economic data over the past 50 years, and minor revisions to the data on US business investment in information technology goods and services. Here are my key takeaways from the report, and its implications for the US tech market.
US real GDP growth in Q2 2013 came in better than expected. The 1.7% growth at an annual rate from Q1 2013 was in line with our projection of 1.9%, but better than what many economists had been forecasting. Growth rates in Q4 2012 and Q1 2013 were revised down to 0.1% and 1.1%, respectively, from the earlier 0.4% and 2.5%. These revisions indicate that the end of the payroll tax reductions, the higher tax rates for high-income people, and the Federal budget cuts from sequester did take a toll on economic growth, with government consumption declining in Q4 2012, Q1 2013, and Q2 2013, and business investment in factories and offices falling in Q1 2013. But consumer spending has been solid, with growth of 1.8% in Q2 2013, 2.3% in Q1 2013, and 1.7% in Q2 2013. Business investment in equipment, which softened to just 1.6% growth in Q1 2013, improved to 6.8% growth in Q2 2013. And housing continues to be a growth engine for the US economy, with double digit growth rates in residential investment in the past four quarters, and improving home prices boosting consumer confidence and spending.
First, European leaders appear to have reached agreement on a three-phase initiative that will 1) reduce the debt burden on Greece by about half, reducing its debt-to-GDP level to a potentially affordable level of 120%; 2) push European banks to increase their capital by about $150 billion so they can better withstand writedowns on their portfolio of Greek, Portuguese, Irish, and potentially other government debt; and 3) increase the funding for the European Financial Stability Facility to about €1 trillion (US$1.4 trillion) in order to extend credit if needed to Italy and Spain in addition to Greece, Italy, and Portugal. Taken together, these initiatives if followed through will go a long way to defusing the debt problem that has hung over European economies. It is premature to say the European debt crisis is over -- European leaders have consistently been several months late and several hundred million euros short of the aggressive rescue efforts that the US took to deal with the Lehman Brothers financial crisis. Still, this is the first time that European leaders have come up with a plan that matches the scope of the problem they face. While weak economic growth and continued downturns in most heavily indebted European countries will still persist, we think the risk of a serious recession in Europe may have been averted.
The Canadian market for purchases of information and communications technologies (ICT) by businesses and governments is about 10% the size of the US ICT market, and only about 3% of the global ICT market. Still, it is an important market because of the sophisticated level of its tech adoption (i.e., its readiness to adopt advanced technologies) and its proximity to the US market.
Canada's ICT market growth rates of 6.2% in 2011 and 2012 growth of 8.1% in Canadian dollars will be very similar to the US ICT market growth in US dollars in the same periods. With the Canadian dollar having gained strength against the US dollar, that means that US vendors will see even stronger Canadian revenue growth when they convert their Canadian sales back into US dollars.
Communications equipment and software will have the strongest growth in 2011, at 10.5% and 8.4%, respectively. Computer equipment growth of 4.4% and telecommunications services growth of 2.2% will be the weakest product categories.
Like many business executives and consumers, I have been paying a lot of attention to the economic indicators, looking for signs either of a stronger economic recovery or a potential renewed recession. As a technology market analyst, I track economic indicators because I’ve found that the growth in the economy is one of the best predictors of what the technology market growth will be -- far better than surveying CIOs to find out their spending plans, which tend to be backward looking.
Based on my reading of the economic indicators and the forecasts of professional economists, it looks to me that both the US economy and the global economy will fall between extremes of strong growth or recession, growing weakly but not slipping back into recession. As a result, in Forrester's latest forecast (US And Global IT Market Outlook: Q3 2010), we have trimmed our forecasts for the US tech market to a still-robust 8.1% growth for 2010 (down from our 9.9% forecast in July), with 7.4% growth in 2011. Globally, the tech market measured in US dollars will grow by 7%, compared with our July forecast of 7.8%, with the somewhat weaker outlook for the US tech market offsetting slightly better performance in Europe and strong growth in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia/Pacific.
These forecasts include business and government purchases of computer equipment, communications equipment, software, IT consulting and systems integration services, and IT outsourcing. If we add telecommunications services (as we do for the first time in this report), US information and communications technology (ICT) market growth in 2010 will be 5.6% and 6.6% in 2011.
While taking in the latest US GDP report and its implications for the tech markets, I have been struck by a pattern of US business putting its money into technology instead of people. Part of the increased tech investment is replacement of old servers and PCs, but most investment has been in technologies to cut costs and improve efficiency. These purchases have been good news for the US tech market, which (as I predicted) is growing strongly. However, it is not so good for the overall economy. The lift to US economic growth from business IT investment is a positive, but the corporate reluctance to hire new employees is making consumers reluctant to spend. Moreover, much of the business investment in computer equipment is flowing overseas in the form of imports of these products, which is also hurting US GDP growth. So, the strong outlook for the tech market is paradoxically contributing to a less robust outlook for the US economy.
The US Department of Commerce released its preliminary report on US Gross Domestic Product in Q2 2010 last Friday, July 31, 2010, and today posted more detailed numbers on business investment in computer equipment and communications equipment. In addition to providing Q2 2010 data, there also were revisions in data for business investment in computer equipment, communications equipment, and software for 2007 to Q1 2010. So, let’s look at what the latest data is saying about the state of the US tech market.
TECH DEVELOPMENTS: Like half a dozen Forrester colleagues, I have been stuck in London since last week due to the Icelandic volcano's disruption of air travel. So, this allows me a UK perspective on IBM's results for Q1 2010. These turned out to be very much what I expected (see "US And Global IT Market Outlook: Q1 2010 -- The Tech Market Recovery Has Begun"). I thought IBM's revenues would grow by mid-single digits; in fact, they grew by 5%. I expected its software revenue growth to be in low double-digits; its hardware revenues to be around 3%-5%; its outsourcing revenues up about the same; and its consulting and SI revenues down by 5% to 10%. Again, actual results came in pretty close: software revenues were up 10.6%; systems and technology revenues up 4.9%; outsourcing (GTS outsourcing) up 6%; and IT consulting and systems integration services (Integrated Technology Services and Global Businesses Services) flat with the year before.
Based on the results we have seen so far from IBM, Oracle (quarter ending February 28), Accenture (quarter ending February 28), and Atos Origin, here's what I think we will see for vendors for the rest of the quarter:
Software will be strong, up 10% or more growth in US dollar revenues for most vendors. Microsoft will do better than this, thanks to strong sales from Windows 7.
Hardware will also be strong, with PC vendors posting 15% growth and server/storage vendors coming in around 5% to 8%.
IT consulting and systems integrations servies will still be down, lagging the upturn in software investment.
As I predicted in January 2010 (see January 11, 2010, "US and Global IT Market Outlook: Q4 2009"), a tech recovery has started in the US and around the world. In my updated IT market forecast (see April 8, 2010, "US and Global IT Market Outlook: Q1 2010"), I point out that IT market indicators from Q4 2009 showed an end to declines, setting the stage for stronger growth in 2010. Since IT market trends are playing out as I expected, I have made only modest changes to my 2010 IT market forecasts. I now expect the US IT market to grow by 8.4%, a bit higher than my earlier forecast, because of better-than-expected performance in communications equipment. My forecast for the global IT market in US dollars is a bit lower at 7.7%, with the unexpected strength in the US dollar (due to the weaker Euro after the Greek debt crisis) dampening dollar-denominated growth. I continue to see computer equipment and software as the strongest product categories in 2010, with PCs, peripherals, and storage equipment leading the computer category and operating system software and applications setting the pace for software. Communications equipment purchases are looking up, especially for enterprise and SMB buying. IT services will lag a bit, with systems integration project work waiting for licensed software purchases to rise.
In this report, I provide our first look at 2010 IT purchases on an industry basis in the US. Confirming past research, the largest US industry market for tech products and services is the professional services industry ($103 billion), followed by financial services ($81 billion), and government ($71 billion). In terms of 2010 growth prospects, US manufacturers, financial services firms, utilities, and health care will see the strongest growth in 2010.
With Forrester’s new blogging platform in place, I have the opportunity to launch a series of blogs about tech economics. What do I mean by tech economics? To me, tech economics first means how the larger economy and the tech sector interact. I am interested both in how economic conditions impact the demand for technology goods and services and how business and government purchases of these tech goods and services affect the economy as a whole and the industries and firms in the economy. Second, tech economics is about the revenue of tech vendors, both what they are reporting in the present and past and what we expect those revenues will be based on future purchases by their business and government customers.
My published research on the US and global IT market outlook, industry, regional, and country IT purchase trends, big trends like Smart Computing, and the ePurchasing software market (which I also cover) will continue to be my platform for addressing tech economics. However, I want to use this blog to talk about four focused aspects of the tech market: 1) tech data sources; 2) tech industry definitions; 3) tech market developments; and 4) tech market dynamics. Let’s call these the 4Ds of tech economics, and each will have its own strand of comments and observations.
D1: Tech data sources will be of most use to the data geeks like me in tech vendors. These are folks who use my numbers in their own forecasts of the market for their firm and its products. These blogs will talk about the data sources that I use in building my tech market sizing and forecasts, issues and questions about these data sources, and how the data geeks can leverage them. I will share some (but not all!) of our secret sauce for our forecasts, and I hope you will share some of yours so we can all get better.