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

US home ownership back at 1995 level as decline continues

  Conventional wisdom seemed to think the US housing report was positive this week.  But analysis of the data makes it hard to see why. One confusion comes from media use of the ‘seasonally adjusted’ number.  But why do we need an adjustment, when we have data going back to 1959?  It simply creates more potential for error.  […]

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RingOfFire Jun14

Oil prices, Russia, open new fault-lines in the ‘Ring of Fire’

One by one, the fault-lines are opening in the debt-fuelled ‘Ring of Fire’ created by the central banks.  First published in June, the map above highlights where I believe these fault-lines run: China is the epicentre of the approaching earthquake – its manufacturing industry is now contracting  Russia is in financial crisis, with interest rates at […]

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70% of China’s auto dealers unprofitable, as lending curbs bite

Would anybody have believed these charts, if one had presented them as a forecast for auto sales a few years ago?  Clearly not: Everyone knew that Europe was one of the world’s top 2 markets, and China was very small Europe’s average incomes were around $40k, whereas China’s were less than $5k even in the […]

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IEA says oil price collapse could lead to “social upheaval or financial difficulties” in H1

Today’s collapse of commodity prices has the potential to cause a major financial crisis, as I first suggested back in June.  In fact, this would now be my Base Case.  But companies and investors have been lulled into complacency by unthinking ‘conventional wisdom’. This simply ignored the obvious fact that record levels of commodity prices could only […]

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Rubber ball

Oil prices continue bouncing down the stairs to lower levels

Brent oil prices have reached the “$70/bbl and probably lower” level that I forecast in August.  So we now need to think about where they go next.  Luckily, the chart above can still guide us, as it has done since September 2010. As readers will remember, I first forecast the collapse on 18 August.  I then followed this post with a detailed analysis […]

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The China middle class myth moves us closer to protectionism

Believing conventional wisdom can destroy your profits.  One example is playing out in the oil market before our eyes. Another example is the myth that China was about to become middle class.  Yet income levels always made this impossible: More than 9 out of 10 Chinese earn less than $20/day By comparison, the basic state pension in the UK is 25% higher, at over […]

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Gulf countries risk losing US defence shield if oil prices stay high

I imagine a version of this chart has been keeping ministers awake at nights in Riyadh and the other Gulf Co-Operation Countries (GCC) in recent months.  “How did we ever allow Canada to supply more oil than OPEC to the US?” they must be worrying. ”What did we think we were doing?” This might not be quite […]

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ACS banner Jun14

Why have oil prices fallen? Will China’s growth recover in 2015?

Chemistry & the Economy:  2014 Year-End Review Some excellent questions have already been submitted for my year-end webinar tomorrow with the American Chemical Society. Why have oil prices fallen? Will China’s growth recover in 2015 – and if so, will it be back to the ‘bad old ways’ of stimulus? Why are the stock prices […]

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OPEC’s high prices have accelerated move away from oil to gas

Does OPEC have a future?  Or has it already disappeared as an effective force in oil markets?  I am not the only one now asking this question.  Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi asked the same question in the summer, suggesting OPEC Ministers should instead meet once a year, and have occasional videoconferences, adding: “We don’t need a meeting. […]

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Blog readers were prepared for this headline on 18 August

Above is today’s front-page headline from the Financial Times.  As readers will remember, I launched a series of major posts in the blog on 18 August, forecasting a collapse of oil prices to “$70/bbl, and probably lower“, and that the US$ would see ”a strong move upwards“.  The headline confirms I was right. The posts in the series were as follows: […]

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