DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY (Oct. 31, 3:15 p.m. EST) — The U.S. plastics industry will not see a sustained recovery before the end of the first half of 2002 and, more likely, the second half according to a poll of some Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. members.
SPI President Donald Duncan said at K 2001 in Dusseldorf that the Washington-based trade association plans to conduct a quarterly U.S. plastics business confidence survey. The first results, from the fourth quarter, are due out in January.
Duncan said the association will survey, on a quarterly basis, the chief executive officers of the companies represented on SPI's board, which includes processor, machinery and materials firms. Participants will be asked a variety of questions ranging from sales trends and capacity utilization to new investment plans.
Initially, the survey will focus on U.S. business conditions, but Duncan acknowledged a desire to broaden the effort to have a global scope.
He said SPI did a pilot survey earlier this year, and was reporting the results to a board meeting Sept. 11 at a Pentagon City hotel near Washington — within sight of one of that day's terrorist airplane attacks that helped send the U.S. economy into a tailspin.
The early results: By January of this year, SPI members were reporting that they expected volume to be down 15-25 percent in 2001. Equipment manufacturers were the most pessimistic, at 30-40 percent, with processors predicting a decline of 10-20 percent and raw materials suppliers expecting a 5-15 percent drop.
By September, they were reporting capacity utilization at 78 percent and dropping, which is lower than it was during the 1991 economic slowdown. Members also were predicting that capital expenditures for plant and equipment would be off this year by more than 50 percent.
The latest results, with members not expecting a recovery until next year, are from a poll taken following the Sept. 11 attacks and resultant plunge in consumer confidence. Duncan does not expect sales volumes to rebound to the levels of late 1999 or early 2000 until at least 2003.