About Paul Hodges

Paul Hodges is Chairman of International eChem, trusted commercial advisers to the global chemical industry. Paul is also an invited member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council. 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

Rising life expectancy enabled Industrial Revolution to occur

Living standards have risen 20-fold over the past 200 years.  Yet they rose just 3-fold over the previous 800 years.  What enabled this dramatic change to take place? The key event was clearly the Industrial Revolution.  As Andy Haldane, chief economist at the Bank of England, notes in a thought-provoking new paper: “In explaining rising living standards since […]

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Saudi lets ‘market decide’ on oil prices to maximise local jobs

I was kindly invited last week to give a keynote address at the annual ME-TECH conference in Dubai.  Naturally, there was intense interest in my argument that oil prices were most unlikely to recover to the $100/bbl level. Instead, I suggested they would likely return to their long-term historical average of $33/bbl (in $2014).  And I argued that this would be good news […]

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US housing markets weaken as home ownership levels fade

Data over the past month continues to confirm my fears that the US housing recovery is going into reverse.  The argument was summed up yesterday by S&P’s chairman, when reporting Case/Shiller housing price data for December: “The housing recovery is faltering. While prices and sales of existing homes are close to normal, construction and new home […]

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10 day Superbowl oil rally ends with storage tanks close to full

The 10-day wonder of the SuperBowl oil rally has ended.  Instead, we are returning to the world of the Great Unwinding, and prices are coming under pressure once more from the energy supply glut and weak demand. But it would be wrong not to mark the coup that took Brent prices up 26% from $50/bbl to $63/bbl […]

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Deflation takes hold in Europe as policymakers remain in Denial

One by one, the Western economies are falling into deflation.  The Eurozone began the process, with deflation of -0.2% in December followed by -0.6% in January, as the chart shows (blue line). Similarly Germany, Europe’s largest economy, moved into deflation in January, just 2 weeks after the deputy finance minister, Steffen Kampeter, told CNBC there was […]

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Global shipping index hits all-time low

The world’s major shipping index, the Baltic Dry (BDI), has collapsed by 2/3rds since November, and by 80% since its earlier December 2013 peak, as the chart shows.  It is now at an all-time low of 509, almost half of its initial 1000 level when established in January 1985. Shipping is the major mode of transport for world trade, […]

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BRIJ auto sales head in different directions

There has been a lot of wishful thinking over the past 15 years about the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China).  The experts told us they were all going to become middle class overnight, and ensure that global growth continued to motor, even as the West slowed. Reality has proved rather different, of course.  This makes […]

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German driving

Discounts support EU auto sales as Paris plans diesel car ban

A mild winter, combined with 20% price discounts, has kept EU auto sales in growth mode.  Latest data from ACEA shows January sales at 999k were the best for the month since 2011′s 1.042m.  The chart above shows the 12-month trend line since 2005, to avoid seasonal fluctuations with the monthly data (blue line): Sales were […]

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PVC export boom to Turkey supports EU chloralkali demand

European chloralkali producers ended up having a relatively good year in 2014, despite having been over-optimistic about likely demand levels in Q3.  They held operating rates at 78% in Q3, in line with H1 levels.  But realism soon prevailed, and producers quickly cut rates to average 75% in Q4 to compensate. The chart shows the detail of developments since 2009 (based […]

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Markets pause for breath as oil traders enjoy upstream volatility

There are some signs of a recovery in some markets, but the overall picture is still very quiet for what should be the seasonally strongest quarter of the year for the West.  Markets should also have been strong in Asia, in the run-up to this week’s Lunar New Year (LNY), but they have remained relatively […]

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