US demand bouncing along the bottom

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The good news from the latest reports on US house prices and auto sales was simple – things have stopped getting worse. US house prices saw “some stabilisation in some regions” according to the S&P/Case Shiller Index for April. Whilst auto sales are clearly bouncing along the bottom, down “only” 29% in June versus May’s 35% decline.

The bad news in terms of house prices was that the decline is really only just getting underway in some key markets. Chicago and New York, for example, “posted record annual declines in April”, and are now down 19% and 13% respectively. By comparison, Phoenix, the worst market, was down 35% versus last April, and 54% from the 2006 peak.

Anecdotal evidence from the blog’s recent New York visit certainly suggested that the city’s bankers are only now beginning to sell up. Initially, those newly unemployed in Q4 had held on to property, believing that they would quickly find new employment. But now cash is getting tighter, and H2 may well see more homes up for sale.

The auto market is also showing diverging trends. Ford seems to be on a bit of a roll, as the chart shows, even though its sales were down 11%, and it claims to be reducing price incentives. Other producers fared less well, with Chrysler having to increase its incentives by up to $750.

The other good news is that auto inventories are also coming down, due to the recent plant closures. Ford is actually increasing Q3 production by 25k vehicles, having dropped inventory by 214k since last June. GM has also reduced stocks by 206k over the same period. This should certainly help hard-pressed chemical and polymer suppliers.

About Paul Hodges

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.

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