Archive | May, 2012

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US home prices hit new post-crisis lows in Q1

The blog is changing its regular presentation of US house price movements, to mirror that used for auto sales. This should help to identify month-by-month changes. It also means there is no need to use seasonally adjustmed numbers. These are guesswork at the best of times. And in Q1 they have been tested to the […]

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EU auto sales fall again

April was another bad month for EU auto sales. As the chart shows, based on ACEA data, sales were down 7% in April (red square) and down 8% versus 2011 (green line) in January – April. The only bright spot remains Germany, were sales were up 2% in the Jan-Apr period. It is now 24% […]

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PE demand decline highlights China risks

China’s slowdown is continuing to gather pace. Polyethylene (PE) demand has been a very reliable leading indicator for the economy. Its 50% growth between 2008-10 highlighted the overheating economy, as the government stoked a credit bubble, even whilst official GDP growth reports were reassuringly low. GDP numbers, however are merely targets. Likely future premier Li […]

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Market volatility hits new peaks

Petchem markets provided a perfect case study of Volatility last week, confirming the blog’s view that we are heading into a VUCA world where Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity will dominate. This was also real volatility, where prices crashed downwards and surged upwards at the same time. And it involved 2 of the ‘building block’ […]

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A is for Ambiguity

Today the blog ends its review of the VUCA world with A for Ambiguity. The global economy often seemed to be on auto-pilot during the 25 years of the economic Supercycle between 1982-2007. The chart above shows US GDP since 1929 (when records began), with the pink columns showing the official dates for recession: • […]

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C is for Complexity

The blog’s series on the VUCA world today reaches C for Complexity. Interest rates are key to company profitability. They determine rates of return for new investments, and their affordability. They also have a major influence on consumer spending patterns. The debate over their future direction is just one example of current Complexity: • Financial […]

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Interesting quote (6)

Nobody ever bothers to deny something that is plainly impossible. So when CEOs of a major bank deny something, the blog always worries. The ‘Interesting quote’ series began in August 2007, when the blog noted Chuck Prince (then CEO of Citgroup) as saying: ‘We see a lot of people on the Street who are scared. […]

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U is for Uncertainty

The blog’s series on the emerging ‘VUCA world’ today looks at how companies have to manage increased levels of Uncertainty. This can be seen in key areas of demand, such as housing. The above chart shows how US housing starts (blue line) have fallen from 2.1m in 2005 to just 0.6m last year. Housing permits […]

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V is for Volatility

Unilever CEO Paul Polman suggests we are living in a VUCA world, as we discuss in chapter 11 of Boom, Gloom and the New Normal. Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity make planning for the future more difficult than for a generation. This week, the blog will run a special series that examines how this VUCA […]

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Complacency rises as markets fall

Financial markets are telling us something important about the outlook. Profitable themes over the past month have been expectations of weakness in crude oil prices, in China’s economy, and in the financial sector; plus positive views on long-dated government bonds in the JUUGS (Japan, UK, US, Germany, Switzerland). 90% of market players probably dismiss most, […]

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