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.

Author Archive | Paul Hodges

China’s $10bn trade deal fraud hits iron ore and copper markets

Iron ore prices on China’s futures market were at 5-year lows yesterday.  Copper prices also weakened in Australia.  This adds to the blog’s concern that China’s ‘collateral trade’ market is getting closer and closer to its ‘moment of truth’. This will come as an awful shock to most outside observers, who have been led to believe China’s vast imports […]

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Time to look forward, not back, for European petrochemicals

The European petrochemicals industry is in crisis.  Operating rates dropped below 85% in H2 2008, and have never recovered.  Now there is a danger that it faces death by a thousand cuts.  This would be a tragedy for the European economy, as it would imply the loss of tens of thousands of well-paid jobs along […]

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US Fed governor agrees it helped fund Alibaba bubble

The last days of a bubble are always the most fun.  And Alibaba’s New York market debut last Friday will be one of those to treasure and report to the grandchildren in decades to come.  There were so many elements to enjoy: The investment bankers got the price wrong by 40%, but will still walk away with […]

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Ageing consumers from Chile to China need affordable, quality goods and services

The New Old 55+ generation is the key demographic for future consumer spending.  Their numbers are rising rapidly as global life expectancy has risen by 50% since 1950. Over the same period, global fertility rates have halved.  So there will be fewer younger people joining the wealth-creator generation of 25 – 54 year-olds that has historically driven economic […]

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Chemical production continues to slow across most regions

Chemical production is currently the best leading indicator for the wider economy, as financial markets have lost their power of price discovery due to the impact of central bank stimulus. The above chart, based as always on the excellent American Chemistry Council (ACC) data, continues to flash the orange warning signal first seen last month.  The key […]

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Sinopec & China arrive in New Normal of low growth and profit

Sinopec is China’s largest chemical producer and its second largest refiner.  The blog’s annual review of its published Results confirms its uniqueness in global markets. The numbers confirm that it remains focused on increasing production, not profit.  It will be No 2 in global ethylene capacity next year as a result.  The chart above highlights the key metrics, based […]

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US ethylene outages boost European and Asian PE producers

Polymer traders must be already counting their end-of-year bonuses, as the value of the US$ rises whilst crude oil prices weaken.  The biggest bonuses will likely go to polyethylene (PE) traders competing with US producers. The reason is that US ethylene spot prices are currently at record levels.  An astonishing 10% of US ethylene capacity has been out […]

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The real challenge is a lack of challenge

We all remember the Hans Christian Andersen story about the Emperor with no clothes.  His subjects were told that only those who were stupid or incompetent would be unable to see his wonderful new suit. Of course, nobody wanted to appear stupid or incompetent.  So when the Emperor paraded in his new clothes, nobody wanted to tell him the obvious.  It was left to a child […]

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Russian downturn causes GM, Ford U-turn; EU slows despite discounts

August is a holiday month for Europe’s statisticians.  So we had to wait until yesterday for a combined summary of July and August’s EU auto sales.  As the chart shows, they indicate a new slowdown is underway after the more encouraging volumes at the start of the year: Sales were up only 5.6% in July and 2.1% in August (red square), […]

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Shiller warning suggests S&P 500 bubble coming to an end

Nobel Prizewinner Prof Robert Shiller correctly forecast the dot-com collapse in 2000, and the 2008 financial Crisis, using the chart above.  Now he is warning we risk a 3rd collapse. The problem is that Western central banks have undertaken the largest financial experiment in history.  Their policy has been to boost financial markets, particularly the US S&P 500 - the world’s […]

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