It is nearly time for the blog's annual forecast of chemical industry prospects. Of course, past performance is not necessarily a guide to future outcomes. But it is one of the better guides that we have. So before publishing the forecast next weekend, it makes sense to assess the blog's credibility by looking back at last year's outlook.
This was titled 'Budgeting for a downturn'. It took issue with the then current consensus, suggesting that this was 'very optimistic' in its belief that 'oil would remain at $70/bbl' for the year, that 'debt market problems would be contained', and that 'margins will remain at 2007 levels'.
It argued instead that there was 'a real possibility' oil prices would reach $100/bbl, and noted the alarming parallels with 1979-80, when apparent petchem demand increased (due to stock-building ahead of likely prices increases), whilst actual end-user demand collapsed. It also worried that 'the underlying position in financial markets is clearly deteriorating', and that 'new housing starts and US house prices were already very weak'.
Its main concern was that 'the latest upward rush by the oil price will be the catalyst that that finally causes the US consumer to cut back on non-essential spending. Equally, the continuing problems in the banking sector may well turn off the tap of consumer, and maybe even corporate lending'. It concluded that 'if I was drawing up budgets for 2008, I would be putting in place contingency plans for just such an outcome'.
The whole aim of the blog is to 'share ideas about the influences that may shape the chemical industry over the next 12 - 18 months'. The blog hopes that its 2008 forecast achieved this aim, and enabled readers to better prepare for today's more difficult economy.