Is it happening? Has the bubble finally burst? Will things get back to normal?
Normal being suppliers to the rubber industry crying poor, enacting ``temporary voluntary adjustments'' or plain, old-fashioned price cuts.
And hand-wringing about overcapacity problems.
Perhaps it's premature for rubber processors to chortle about a turn in the supply/demand/price equation for materials. Still, there's been one small, event-non-event might be a better description-that could signal a change.
No one has announced a price increase for June for styrene-butadiene rubber.
This has some significance. Since May 1994 we've had SBR price increases announced nearly every month. Sometimes more often than that.
Maybe the suppliers just forgot.
With the weather warming up, they've been out golfing and just haven't gotten around to posting an increase.
It could just be connected to the recent dip in replacement tire sales.
Tire dealers and distributors did a lot of buying at the end of last year to beat announced tire price increases by manufacturers in February and March. They might have had plenty of inventory built up, which could be why aftermarket tire sales fell 14.4 percent in March from a year earlier.
Nawww. I subscribe to the golf theory.
I don't want to contribute to any perception that the rubber industry is heading toward another slowdown.
Of course, it really is, the business (like the general economy) being cyclical. But hopefully it's far off.
Now's the time to ride the wave and raise those prices. Most suppliers certainly have, and who can blame them. When the next downturn hits, the rubber processors who are begging for materials will be the haughty ones when a supply-side sales representative comes around looking for business.
One of the more interesting theories about the rising prices juggernaut concerns natural rubber. NR prices-which you certainly know if you use the stuff-are about 60 percent or so higher today than they were a year ago.
This theory is that speculators in the Far East are at work with NR, and pushing up the price. When they finally lose interest, NR prices will drop.
Which means other rubber prices will fall, too.
Nice theory, anyhow.
Noga is editor of Rubber & Plas tics News.