But get ready for a down cycle as we near the end of the first decade of the new millenium.
When members of the Valve Manufacturers Association gathered in Coronado Beach, CA in August for the association’s Annual Market Outlook Workshop, they listened intently to forecasts from a bakers’ dozen of economists and industry prognosticators. While much of the news was positive—most of the end-user industries served by VMA members appear to be on track for another healthy year—they also heard words of caution. In more than one instance, presenters mentioned the “R” word (recession), giving attendees plenty of food for thought as they plan beyond 2008. Two other themes echoed by speakers? The ever-dwindling workforce and the need to recognize how the North American valve industry is inextricably intertwined with the rest of the world.
A Recession is Coming
Alan Beaulieu, economist for the Institute for Trend Research, had some disquieting news for Outlook attendees: This nation will see a recession in the year 2010.
However, he insisted the news was not necessarily all bad.
The good news is, we have a couple more quarters of prosperity,” he said.
Beaulieu said the economy is running just about where he predicted it would go at last year’s workshop, though he’s lowered the figures somewhat for the rest of 2007 and 2008. By 2009, the economy will start to go weak and by 2010, it will take a dip, he said.
“We have no empirical indications yet, but home prices are just the tip of the iceberg,” Beaulieu said. He expects to see oil prices heating up this winter, edging up above $80/barrel in the first half of next year. He also said wage inflation in many sectors has already started.
And he said the Fed will raise rates by 50 to 75 basis points in early 2008, “which doesn’t sound like much,” but, as a nation that carries a lot of debt, the extra $400 a month per household that would result, for instance, could have a chilling effect.
Also, by 2010 there will be a new president who will be facing a number of problems, many of which are tied to the aging Boomer generation. “Whoever is president will be dealing with Social Security, Medicare, drug programs, all of which are budget busters,” he said.
The need to pay for these and other entitlement programs will mean the U.S. will need to borrow money, which puts the country at a global disadvantage, Beaulieu added.
One advantage this nation does have is its demographics, he said. Unlike some countries, “we’re having kids,” at a rate of about 2.1, which is balancing out retirees. In comparison, Russia, where male life expectancy is only 57, is shrinking and will lose 50 million by 2050, “which is the equivalent of the Bubonic Plague,” Beaulieu pointed out. And India, though it will grow almost as much as the U.S., is dealing with a land mass one-third the size.
The U.S. also has industrial advantages. For example, when comparing U.S. Industrial Production to its Gross Domestic Product, “we spend most of our time in a positive track, and we have been for a long time,” Beaulieu said. Currently, goods and services as a percent of GDP is the highest it’s been since World War II.
“We are a profitable nation and prosperous. We are first in technological readiness, quality of research, productivity, profits,” Beaulieu said.
The U.S. is also first in percentage of total world exports of goods and services with Germany, China and then Japan following next. And though many fear China’s growing strength, Beaulieu noted the country has significant demographic problems because of an aging population and restrictions on family size. It also has 125 million more men than women, which raises fears about violence, and significant pollution problems that are killing hundreds of thousands of people.
“China has been on steroids,” Beaulieu said, “but you don’t fix problems like these overnight.”
Beaulieu had these tidbits of advice: