Naples, Fla. — Changes to the U.S. economy and other potential risks are always on the mind of Bill Wood, who addressed everything from housing to epidemics during the 2020 Plastics News Executive Forum.
Wood is PN's Economics Editor, as well as founder and president of Mountaintop Economics & Research Inc.
Current risks covered during the forum, Feb. 25-27 in Naples, included the coronavirus outbreak, the federal deficit and the 2020 U.S. presidential election. For plastics, product bans and material deselection are current challenges, but COVID-19 is in the headlines.
"Coronavirus is the risk do jour, but risk is always present," Wood said.
He described U.S. housing starts as "a tremendous indicator" for the U.S. economy. The makeup of that data, however, has undergone recent change, with multifamily complexes showing greater growth than single-family homes.
"There's a move toward renting in the U.S.," Wood said. "People used to buy house as part of the American dream, but now they're choosing to rent."
That trend could result in lower sales for plastic products, including appliances, as well as outdoor equipment such as leaf blower and weed trimmers. He added that automotive builds "are down, but are on the verge of coming out of it."
U.S. plastic part production had been on the rise since 2009, but was down in 2019. The U.S. capacity utilization rate for plastic parts should increase to 78 percent in 2020, Wood said.