The US Senate thinks the Amaranth hedge fund increased the costs of natural gas futures contracts last year. Any pension funds invested in Bear Stearns' hedge funds might want to check on the current value of their holdings.
Continue reading "Hedge fund woes and the chemical industry" »
The latest report from the 'central bankers' bank' provides an excellent analysis of what might go wrong in the world economy over the next 2 – 3 years. Anyone interested in scenario planning will find its conclusions valuable.
Continue reading "4 risks to the world economy" »
Crude oil prices are climbing again. $100/bbl is not impossible, if current geo-political concerns continue. And today's tightly balanced market could persist to 2010.
Continue reading "What price oil?" »
ICI has experience of fighting off unwelcome acquisitions. And Akzo may find itself in a difficult position if ICI wins again. Unless this bid, like Hanson's in 1991, marks the 'top' in the currrent M&A cycle.
Continue reading "ICI and Akzo" »
The prices paid for Petkim and for Lustran reflect two very different perspectives on the current market:
Continue reading "Chemical company valuations" »
Housing and autos have always been key drivers for the US chemicals industry. We should be concerned if the housing market weakens further.
Continue reading "Will the US housing slump impact chemicals?" »
Yesterday’s "swings in financial derivative prices were so extreme that they implied scenarios in which the core of the global liquidity system suffers a serious assault", according to JP Morgan, the investment bank. Watch out, if current US sub-prime mortgage problems turn into a more general “flight from risk”.
Continue reading "Stress-testing the global financial system" »
Consumer attitudes have shifted sharply in recent weeks. This could have big implications for chemical companies, and they need to respond quickly.
Continue reading "‘Its the price that matters’: Wal-Mart and Tesco signal a major change in consumer priorities" »
Central bankers are like generals. They seem to prefer fighting their last war, rather than preparing for the next one. How else to explain their continued reluctance to recognise that higher food and energy prices are here to stay? As a result, interest rates now need to rise more than expected. Pity those who have to forecast demand levels for 2008 Budgets
Continue reading "2008 Budgets just became more difficult to finalise" »
If you read the financial pages of your newspaper, everything sounds rosy. But if you turn to the news section, its all gloom. Both views can’t continue to exist alongside each other for ever. Whichever scenario comes out on top, will have major implications for the chemical industry. My own view is that this week’s Access deal for Lyondell will be seen, in hindsight, as marking the top. There could be storms ahead.
Continue reading "A tale of two outlooks" »
The US dollar has been falling steadily in recent weeks. It is particularly weak against the euro, having fallen almost 5% since January. OPEC countries buy much more from the eurozone than from the US, and the OPEC President has said they are ‘concerned’ about dollar weakness. We probably need to start monitoring oil prices in euros as well as dollars.
Continue reading "Oil prices and the euro" »
Bill Gross runs PIMCO, the world’s largest government bond managers with assets of nearly $700bn. In a new commentary, he pulls no punches about what he sees as the ‘gluttony’ of the super-rich amongst the private equity and hedge fund elite. He also takes aim at the lenders who, in his view, have been ‘too meek and too passive’. He sees the end of the era of cheap debt financing, and with it the boom in M&A that has sustained equity markets in recent years.
Continue reading "Greed and Fear" »
Alchemists once claimed the ability to turn base metal into gold. More recently, some bankers seem to have been claiming a similar genius, via the magic catalyst of securitisation. These bankers no longer perform their traditional role of lending on a prudent basis to good quality borrowers in the personal or corporate sector. Instead, they simply seek to lend as much and as quickly as possible, usually in areas that they do not understand. Their aim has simply been to generate significant commission income for their bank, and personal bonuses for themselves.
Continue reading "Turning base quality loans into gold" »