US housing starts are slowing so far this year, with February’s starts just below the million level again on an annualised basis. This follows the steadily declining rate of home ownership, which is now back at 1995′s level of 64%. And yesterday’s Case-Shiller report on home prices suggests the 10-City Index may well have peaked back in […]
It is looking more and more likely that the global economy hit a peak in Q2 last year, and has since been slowing. Latest data on chemical production from the American Chemistry Council indicates a further slowdown so far this year, as the chart shows: Global production slowed to 2.8% in February from a 5% peak […]
In recent years, financial markets have believed that “everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds“. Good news has taken markets higher. So has bad news – as investors assume policymakers will apply more stimulus. As a result, a whole generation of managers and analysts has grown up without having to learn the fundamentals of supply/demand analysis. And […]
Too many policymakers, companies and investors are continuing to ignore the dramatic changes taking place in the age profile of the global population. Yet common sense tells us these must have a major impact on the economy. The impact comes from 2 equally important developments: One is the rise in the number of people in the New […]
The above chart is a major wake-up call for anyone who still believes that China will continue to import ever-increasing volumes of major commodities such as polyethylene (PE). It suggests demand and import growth are now at much lower levels than in the past, and may even have begun to peak. The chart shows cumulative volumes in […]
Sinopec, China’s largest chemical company, has just published its operating results for 2014. We don’t yet have all the details, but the chart above highlights the key points of its cumulative performance since it first filed public accounts in 1998: It has invested Rmb 288bn ($41bn) in capital expenditure for refining, and Rmb 239bn ($33bn) for chemicals (blue columns) […]
Major change is underway in China under President Xi Jinping. And this is not ’sound-bite’ policy change, created for the evening news bulletins. Instead this is long-term strategy, intended to rebuild the economy for decades ahead. As a result, Western policymakers have largely missed its implications, and are having to scramble to catch up. One example is the sudden scramble to […]
What could go wrong in today’s financial world? Many stock markets in the West are hitting new highs, and central banks are promising they will do nothing to spoil the party. But as Gillian Tett of the Financial Times warned on Friday: “Before anyone gets too thrilled about equities, they should read a sobering research document from […]
We are living in a world of ageing populations for the first time in history. For many, this conjures up a picture of vast numbers of old people leaning on walking sticks with one hand, and swallowing mouthfuls of pills with the other. But reality is a long way from this stereotype. LIFE EXPECTANCY HAS SUDDENLY INCREASED IN […]
Attention has rightly been focused on the collapse of oil prices over the past 6 months. These have further to fall, but the major part of the move must now be behind us. After all, Brent was at $104/bbl when I first forecast the move in mid-August, and closed at $56/bbl last night, so probably “only” has $20/bbl-$30/bbl further downside. […]
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Paul Hodges is Chairman of International eChem, trusted commercial advisers to the global chemical industry.
The aim of this blog is to share ideas about the influences that may shape the chemical industry over the next 12 – 18 months. It will try to look behind today’s headlines, to understand what may happen next in important issues such oil prices, economic growth and the environment. We may also have some fun, investigating a few of the more offbeat events that take place from time to time. Please do join me and share your thoughts.
Between us, we will hopefully develop useful insights into the key factors that will drive the industry's future performance.