Archive | January, 2010

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Global chemical output returns to growth

The above chart, based on data from the excellent weekly American Chemistry Council report, highlights the changes in chemical production over the past year. November saw world production (black line) finally turn positive again versus the previous 12 months, for the first time since August 2008. For an industry used to steady growth in line […]

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EU consumers worry about the economic outlook

European consumers remain very wary about the future. The slide above, from the monthly CEFIC report, shows that fear of unemployment is THE major concern. Almost half the population, a net balance of 44.3%, worried about this in December (yellow column), only slightly fewer than in November (blue column). This concern creates a major headwind […]

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China cuts back lending to the USA

The US government used to depend on China to fund its deficit. In 2006, China bought 47.4% of all US bonds issued. But last year, as the chart from the NY Times shows, China bought just 4.6%, leaving US investors to buy the rest. This is a yet another indicator of the profound changes underway […]

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US housing starts at 25% of 2006 peak

US housing is still limping along the bottom. December’s housing starts were only 0.2% above 2008 levels. Overall, 2009 saw just 554k starts, the lowest level for 50 years, despite the support of the $8k tax credit. During the Boom period, as the ACC’s chart above shows, starts (blue line) peaked at a 2.2 million […]

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Volcker returns

Sometimes, a picture is worth 1000 words. That’s the case with this photo (used by most of the world’s major news media), showing President Obama with former US Fed Governor Paul Volcker by his side. Volcker’s re-emergence is the first real sign of a serious shift in policy towards the financial sector. And the blog […]

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Restocking not the same as Recovery

Will Beacham of ICIS interviewed me yesterday in London’s Trafalgar Square. Please click above if you would like to see the discussion. Or click here if you would like to see Will’s summary on ICIS news.

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Greece’s deficits threaten the eurozone

Greece’s problems are getting worse, not better. And there seems no obvious solution to them. Does this matter to the chemical industry? Yes. Greece may not be a major player in chemical markets. But it is a member of the eurozone. And so its financial difficulties could prove very disruptive for any company that trades […]

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4 tips for longer-term corporate survival

Last September, the blog noted ’4 tips for survival in the New Normal’. Now, 3 years of research by a team of UK and Dutch academics has identified companies that have achieved almost uninterrupted success over a 20 year period, and asked senior executives about their experience. As summarised by Stefan Stern in the Financial […]

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Manchester United plans 2nd refinancing

The downside of the credit bubble continues to impact the UK’s Premier League, and the blog’s own soccer club, Manchester United. Today’s Guardian notes that United were bought by the US Glazer family for £810m ($1.3bn) in 2005, using £540m of debt. Since then, it says this debt has “cost United £340m in cash” in […]

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EU auto sales top USA and China in 2009

Almost unnoticed, the EU became the largest regional auto market last year. Thanks to the support of scrappage programmes (particularly Germany’s €5bn scheme) it sold 14.4 million autos, compared to just 10.4m in the USA and 13.6m in China. W Europe continued to see higher sales than Central Europe, due to greater government support. But […]

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