Lingering economic uncertainty, made more so by a potential war with Iraq and divisive foreign trade issues, is a mirror to processors' outlook heading into the new year, as the guarded optimism of 2002 slipped slightly for 2003 predictions.
A recent Plastics News fax poll revealed 54.6 percent of respondents said they have very favorable or somewhat favorable attitudes toward the economy in 2003. That's a drop-off of 5.4 percentage points when compared with answers to those same questions last year.
The number of processors expecting a very favorable economy fell to 6.9 percent from last year's 9.7 percent, while the number expecting a somewhat favorable outcome dipped to 47.7 percent from 2002's 50.3 percent.
Taking a historical glance, this year's 6.9 percent very favorable rate marks the lowest in the poll's 10-year history. A 28.8 percent very favorable rate in 2000 is the highest. The PN fax poll was started in 1994.
Turning to issues most on the minds of processors for 2003, customer growth or cutbacks again topped the list of external factors expected to affect processors this year, with a persuasive 81.4 percent of respondents citing that topic. That figure, however, represents a 0.2 point drop from 2002. Raw materials pricing was the second most-pressing issue at 54.3 percent, up from 46.1 percent last year. Interest rates were third with 25.7 percent, down from 35.5 percent in 2002.
While just 24.8 percent of processors named trade/NAFTA/GATT issues among external factors, they contributed ardent responses on the issue of fair trade, particularly concerning China. Respondents used the poll to level all manner of opinions on the foreign trade