August 2009 highlights

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Many readers have been out of the office during August on a well-deserved break. As usual, the blog is therefore highlighting below the main postings over the past month, in the hope this will help you to catch up quickly on key developments – please click on the highlighted title if you want to read the original posting:

Demand has stabilised, but companies saw no sign of major upturn when reporting HI results. More questions were asked about China’s apparent boom. The manipulation of ‘operating earnings’ to meet analyst expectations reached a new peak amongst S&P 500 companies. GDP in the west made a statistical recovery, as destocking ends, although a weak monsoon is hitting India’s GDP.

End-user industries have also stabilised. Auto sales rebounded due to government subsidies, but capacity cutbacks continued, whilst a rise in foreclosures has increased US house sales.

Oil markets remain sentiment-driven and out of line with fundamentals. Benzene prices have dropped $300/t since the blog suggested they were signalling a chemical market peak. The Boom/Gloom index turned cautious, whilst US natural gas markets remain confused.

Bank lending is greatly reduced versus the Boom period, and Gillian Tett suggested their plumbing systems were still blocked. China’s banks started to worry about a speculative bubble.

Consumption trends are focusing on cost and sustainability rather than innovation, with P&G introducing a Basic brand. Auto makers drive for higher fuel efficiency creates a feedstock opportunity for chemical companies, as does the need for improved irrigation systems in Asia.

Political issues will need careful attention when companies produce SWOTs in future, as politicians start to focus on real rather than financial engineering.

Prof Mintzberg had good advice for managers on coping with interruptions.

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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