The blog is now 18 months old. It has a truly global readership, and as shown in the above map, is now read in 1244 cities and 89 countries.
Its aim has always been to identify ‘the influences that may shape the chemical industry over the next 12 – 18 months’, and to ‘develop useful insights into the key factors that will drive the industry’s future performance’. So today is a suitable moment to review its development:
Economic events. The blog has been widely recognised for its success in forewarning readers of the global financial crisis. This was most obvious in its posting of 7 September, titled “The price of all assets will go down”, which was written 2 weeks before the Dow Jones began its fall from 11,200 to a low of 7500. Its insight does not depend on economic models, but on its willingness to identify the key facts and let them speak for themselves.
Chemical industry growth and margins. The blog’s prime interest is in understanding the trends that will drive chemical demand and profitability. Thus it follows developments in housing, autos, oil prices and the financial markets on a daily basis. Over time, this enables it to identify patterns of cause and effect. Thus its 2008 Outlook was titled ‘Budgeting for a Downturn’, and warned that “the consensus forecast for 2008 is very optimistic”. Its more recent posting on 19 October, giving its 2009 Outlook, was titled ‘Budgeting for Survival’.
Oil and feedstock prices. The blog’s prime focus has been to stress the likely volatility of oil prices. This is due to tight supply/demand balances, which mean that small fluctuations around the core 85mbd level can lead to large changes in prices. This insight enabled the bog to forecast ever-high oil prices until July, when it was virtually alone is suggesting that oil prices “could easily fall $50/bbl to $100/bbl” in the absence of any military action on Iran. It then built on this success by forecasting that a further fall to $70/bbl was likely, followed by a warning on 4 November that “a $20-$30/bbl range for crude, albeit temporarily, would not be impossible”. WTI’s $33.87/bbl mid-December low justified this caution.
Summary. The aim of the blog is to identify key changes in the wider landscape, as early as possible. As a natural optimist, I would prefer these to be positive changes. Unfortunately, however, the last 18 months have instead proved to be full of warning signs. I hope that reading the blog has provided you with valuable insights into the underlying issues. And I will do my best to ensure that it continues to helps you prepare for the problems that we now face.