I love a good forecast or a juicy survey. I just don't believe most of them.
Forecasts are a crap shoot, and surveys can be manipulated a dozen different ways. Both are interesting, but often of questionable merit.
We used to take great delight in publishing comparisons of new and past in dustry forecasts at this time of year. We don't do this as much anymore for the simple reason that some of the forecasters got cold feet and won't release their predictions to the public. Too much accountability.
You have to be quite a gambler to guess the future in this field. The rubber business is just so volatile, so dependent on factors outside its control. I mean, who would have guessed at the start of 1994 that natural rubber prices would jump 80 percent? Or that SBR prices would rise about 200 times in a year (or so it seemed)? Or that Michelin would be the only company to have a peaceful contract settlement with the union?
This year we mark the demise of one of our standard year-end forecasts, the Department of Commerce's ``Industrial Outlook.'' It was an in-depth study of manufacturing industries, including the hose, belting and tires sectors, along with fabricated rubber goods, a catch-all category.
At times the Industrial Outlook was more of a review of the previous year than a forecast. It also seemed to be a review of what other industry-related forecasting organizations already were predicting.
Still, many readers clamored for the Industrial Outlook. But, apparently, there wasn't enough demand overall, and the Industrial Outlook has been canceled, another government downsizing victim. Get used to it.
I must admit I once was a bit naive about surveys and polls. Heck, I remember being convinced George McGovern would win the presidency. Everyone I knew was voting for him.
That's an example of an unscientific survey. I'm more sophisticated now: I know all political surveys are right, and all football polls are wrong.
I do like one industry-related survey just out. The ACS Rubber Division conducted an in-house poll, and got 1,020 responses to its questionnaire, roughly 25 percent of its membership. That sounds pretty representative.
I also like what the survey said: That as many as 63 percent of the Rubber Division members want at least two meetings a year; and that members from supplier companies are the people who would like to cut back to one meeting (42 percent of the respondents).
This is what I thought in the first place-that people from the manufacturing end place a high value on attending Rubber Division meetings, and some participants from the supplier sector are a little tired of footing much of the bills.
So the results fit the chief criteria for a survey to win my approval: It backs up my preconceived notions.