The housing market free fall will reach its bottom, if it hasn't already, and begin its rebound in 2007, many leading housing economists concur.
However, there's some disagreement on when, specifically, the turnaround will take place. Some say the first or second quarter; others say the fourth.
Regardless, it's a 2007 forecast that is more good news than bad for plastic building product makers.
``Year over year, home sales will be essentially flat in 2007,'' said David Seiders, chief economist for the Washington-based National Association of Home Builders, in a conference call.
The prognosticators are quick to point out the silver lining, though.
``Even with the projected decline, it's still going to be the fourth-best year, ever,'' said David Berson, chief economist at Fannie Mae in Washington.
While housing is a perceived economic drag, several economists are somewhat bullish on nonresidential construction in 2007, particularly in the hotel and lodging segment. Hotel and related construction is expected to grow by 15-20 percent, said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Arlington, Va.-based Associated General Contractors of America, in his 2007 economic forecast, released in December.
Plastic pipe will benefit from price stability in 2007, particularly in indoor plumbing applications where prices of competitive materials like copper are expected to stay at historically high levels. Polyethylene has benefited in recent years from price and supply instability in the concrete pipe market. Now that the concrete market has stabilized, it could present a tougher fight to makers of large-diameter plastic pipe in 2007, Simonson said by telephone.
Vinyl windows and other low-maintenance products should continue to benefit from remodeling activity in 2007.
``There's a record amount of homeowner equity. That will support the remodeling market,'' Seiders said.
Other than more industry consolidation - particularly in the wood-plastic lumber market - fence, deck and railing is projected to do well in 2007.
``There seems to be some stability in the resin cost market, which adds stability to our customer base,'' said Alan Robbins, president of Akron, Ohio-based Plastic Lumber Co. ``I feel pretty confident going into next year.''
Vinyl siding, while maintaining its place as the dominant exterior cladding product, will continue to lose market share to the likes of fiber cement and manufactured stone.
John Pruett, a principal with Exton, Pa.-based Principia Partners, a building products industry consulting firm, expects that outdoor polypropylene accessories like injection molded shudders, light blocks, vents and utility mounts will continue to grow in the new year.
``You've got continued demand for the leading polymers used in building products such as PVC, [PE] and [PP],'' he said. ``In commercial construction - probably an increase in demand,'' he added.