By Jeff Rasmussen
It was a recovery year, to be sure, but an uneven global rebound kept the lid on the world economy.
For the last three quarters of the year in 2013 and 2014, the U.S. has been an economic island, showing noticeable improvement in comparison to other major economies around the world. This has been proven by its steady growth in GDP, a better job market and increased consumer confidence and spending, while most other regions—China, Japan and Europe—have endured economic slowdowns. Overall, the impact of these slowdowns has constrained growth in the worldwide economy, including specialty fabrics.
Economic growth in the 18-nation Eurozone was 1.2 percent in the first quarter of 2014; however, GDP for 2014 slipped to 0.8 percent and is projected to reach 1.3 percent in 2015. Entering the fourth quarter of 2014 and into 2015, economic performance in the euro area has created concern that it may slip into a triple-dip recession, and there are fears it may fall into deflation. Seven Euro area countries are forecast to have public-debt-to-GDP ratios of more than 100 percent in 2015; the proportion of loans in default is rising in Portugal, Italy and Greece.
China experienced weak economic activity in the first quarter of 2014. In response, Chinese leadership implemented measures to stimulate growth, which included tax relief for small- to medium-sized companies and accelerated infrastructure spending. These helped support faster growth in the second quarter; yet, at 7.4 percent, China’s growth for 2014 was the slowest since 2009. Growth is expected to decrease to 7.1 percent in 2015 as Chinese leadership tries to move its economy to a more sustainable path.
The world market for specialty fabrics grew about 2.6 percent in 2014 and is expected to achieve sales growth of about 2.8 percent in 2015. Constraints on global growth in the 2014 specialty fabrics market were largely attributable to a growth rate of 3.3 percent in worldwide GDP; this was down from its initial projection of 3.7 percent in April 2014.