"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke
I specifically remember thinking of this quote the first time I attended an NPE. The array of machines making things out of plastic was magical to me, especially the blown film tower. I was mesmerized watching the bubble at the bottom, the flow up and down the tower, and a precisely timed winder downstream. My first question was, "How do you get this thing started?"
This is the same question I have incessantly asked myself the past few days. We are all eagerly anticipating the restart of the U.S. economy, yet I suspect it is going to be much more complicated and will require much more collective expertise than getting a blown film line installed and running. Nevertheless, I have no doubt it will happen. There will be glitches in the beginning, but there will be something magical about it as well. After all, what we are about to witness has never been seen before.
There is a lot of speculation about the timing and the shape of the pending recovery. Or to be more specific, what shape the curve will take as the economic data is charted in the coming months. Some prognostications describe the curve shape as a letter of the alphabet: V-shaped, U-shaped, L-shaped, W-shaped, etc. Each of these shapes imply something different about the timing and strength of the next recovery phase.
To be honest, these shapes are really just guesses rather than forecasts. There is no clear consensus among economists and analysts and policy makers about which of these shapes is the most probable. I doubt if they are all equally probable, but at this time I cannot rule any of them out.
I will add another shape for your consideration. If I had to give it a letter designation, I would call it something like a "modified V-shape," or maybe a "V-shape that morphs into a U-shape." It is the shape the plastics industry traced during the recovery from the Great Recession that ended in 2009.
As you see on the chart, the plastics industry data rebounded quickly off of the low point in the first half of 2009, and the trajectory was sharply higher for about a year. This was definitely a V-shape. But then it dipped modestly for a year or so before continuing back upward on a more gradual slope. So after the initial V-shape, we entered into more of a U-shape, which then continued for the next seven years.