(From the June 25, 2012, issue of Rubber & Plastics News)
AKRON—Despite everything rubber companies do to limit costs and expand their markets, much of the industry's overall prospects remain out of its control.
Just look how it is today.
The rubber industry in North America, following the lead of its major customers, generally continues the slow recovery from the Great Recession. But the near future?
The global economic picture is cloudy at best, dismal at worst. The Eurozone woes continue as the most dangerous of situations for the entire world. Europe already may be in recession in a crisis brought on by the debt situation, particularly in Greece, and the possibility of a domino effect in Spain, Italy and other nations.
Even the economic juggernaut of the world, China, is slowing. Growth continues but not at the breakneck pace of the past, as the government of the centrally planned/free market hybrid country makes changes to deal with an overheated economy.
Disaster—in the form of another worldwide economic meltdown—could be coming, with its terrible ramifications for the rubber industry.
Or, maybe not.
Greek voters restrained themselves from approving potential economic suicide; China still is showing high growth, even if not at the double-digit level.
Certain business sectors—energy, particularly oil exploration, for example—remain strong. That typically filters down to the rubber industry, a servant of a variety of customer bases.
Global economic concerns also have held down oil prices—now at $81 a barrel, the lowest level since last October. The seemingly daily increases in the price of various rubber chemicals and synthetic rubbers have dissipated, and record natural rubber prices have receded.
Rubber companies help themselves as best they can. In many ways, though, no matter what they do, they are along for the ride.