Archive | May, 2010

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Dow Jones Index has worst May since 1940

‘Sell in May and go away’ seemed a good tactic to the blog at the beginning of the month. It worried that we might now be approaching the ‘drawn-out fundamental downtrend’ phase of the current cycle. And in spite of several major ‘relief’ and ‘short-covering’ rallies, financial markets have continued to suffer. The US Dow […]

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Chemical price falls could signal slowdown

The blog’s White Paper, Budgeting for a New Normal, has proved extraordinarily popular since it was published earlier this year. As a result, ICIS have asked me to produce a mid-year Update, to review developments over the past 6 months. This will appear shortly. In the meantime, ICIS’ Will Beacham interviewed me in London’s Trafalgar […]

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Major banks seem to “window-dress” their accounts

Its bad enough that many of the world’s major banks collectively lost $4 trn, whilst continuing to pay themselves $bns in bonuses. Equally sad was the fact that the heads of these banks seemed unable to understand the simple principle of fiduciary duty, when asked by the US Congress about their responsibilities to clients. But […]

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Asian polymer prices and margins begin to fall

A month ago, Nigel Davis called attention in his ICIS Insight column to the alarming fall taking place in US ethylene values. He noted that “inventories seem to have filled“, and presciently concluded that “buyers have been on the look-out for the turn and, by all accounts, expect any downward movement to be swift and […]

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US housing remains weak as foreclosures rise

The problems in US housing remain a major cause of concern for global chemical markets. As the above chart shows – from the American Chemistry Council (ACC) weekly report – housing starts (blue line) and building permits (red) are still at very low levels. April’s housing starts were up 41% versus 2009 to 672k. And […]

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EU auto sales fall 7% in April

April 2009 wasn’t a great month for EU auto sales. Volumes (red line) were down 11.6% versus April 2008. But sales were starting to benefit from the introduction of government scrappage schemes. A year later, as the above chart from ACEA (the European auto manu-facturers association) shows, this support has begun to fade: • April […]

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Preparing for an Age of Austerity in public spending

The blog has sometimes despaired of the cheer-leading and wishful thinking of too many leading policy-makers. As I argued in the Financial Times in March 2007, before the Crisis began, “they seem to confuse being market-friendly with being friendly to markets“. It therefore welcomes the realism being shown by the UK’s new coalition government. Today, […]

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Crude oil falls as markets reassess economic outlook

On 6 May, the blog warned that “it would be very nervous indeed about holding a long position” in crude oil. And as the chart shows, its fears were well-founded. Since 4 May: • WTI has fallen 19%, and $16/bbl, from its $86/bbl peak • The euro has also fallen 8%, and 6c, versus the […]

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Retailers still see challenging times ahead

The blog is a great believer in the forecasting power of the major retailers. The top 3 global companies, Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Tesco all identified a change in consumer buying patterns as early as July 2007, when Tesco warned that “coming down the road is a tougher time“. Worryingly, their most recent comments give no […]

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IMF warns on government spending

The global economy and the chemical industry have been boosted, since the Crisis began in 2008, by massive government stimulus programmes in areas such as autos and housing. Now the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has released a new report, focusing on what happens next. It warns that “general government debt is expected to rise by […]

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