Farmer Iron
Equipment sales see bump, for smaller machines

Equipment sales see bump, for smaller machines

A look at the chart showing equipment sales through July offers good news for compact tractor makers.

Equipment industry data is interesting to review. The slow march across the year often paints an interesting picture. And for the five years leading up to 2015 results were very positive. A quick glance at the chart on this page would seem to say the same is true, and for some classes of tractors the results through July are very good. However, there's more to the story.

The chart is from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers monthly Flash Report for ag equipment sales. And it shows some interesting information.

This glance at the AEM Flash Report data shows that equipment sales are ahead of the five-year average, but that's due almost entirely to a quick rise in smaller tractor sales.

Larger equipment sales continue to lag historic norms. Those are the machines that go to the business farms across the country where machines larger than 100 hp, four-wheel drive tractors and combines are the rule. In those three classes, sales remain soft, yet the trend line on the charge on this page shows things are better than the 5-year average.

That's mainly because the American consumer - the hobby tractor-buying homeowner - feels like he or she can afford to upgrade their machine too. And a good part of those machines also go to municipalities that may be buying new to replace aging inventory too. This week the Wall Street Journal reported that auto loan levels topped $1 trillion this month with more than $110 billion in loans made in June alone. The consumer is more confident, and that brings new income to those smaller tractors.

When it comes to equipment for your farm the short answer is "not so much."

Combine sales are often soft this time of year, but year-over-year sales show that farmers aren't replacing big harvesters as fast as they did in previous years. There's also a glut of good, late-modelused combines sitting on dealer lots, which will crimp sales in the short-term too.

As for four-wheel drive tractors, those sales remain soft too.

In a conversation with one industry representative, however, I learned that an executive of one company reminded everyone that today's sales (soft as they appear) are at 2010 levels - a year when the entire industry felt very good about returns. The continued run of equipment trading and buying had to come to an end sometime, looks like it's this year.

USDA's bearish report on Wednesday didn't help as farmers saw prices slide further. Anyone with a history in agriculture knows this is a cyclical industry. Shareholders who buy into ag companies are often surprised by that and they don't like 'down' years. Industry veterans know that the cycle will eventually turn up too. It's just a matter of time.

For now, the ag equipment industry is soaking up those smaller-tractor sales, which pushed overall two-wheel tractor sales up 19.7% for the month, and 2.6% for the year. Inventories for new larger equipment are running tighter than in past downturns, showing manufacturer restraint. The waiting game continues.

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