About Paul Hodges

Paul Hodges is Chairman of International eChem, trusted commercial advisers to the global chemical industry. He also serves as a Global Expert for the World Economic Forum. The aim of this blog is to share ideas about the influences that may shape the chemical industry and the global economy over the next 12 – 18 months. It looks behind today’s headlines, to understand what may happen next in critical areas such as oil prices, China and Emerging Markets, currencies, autos, housing, economic growth and the environment. 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

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‘Budgeting for a New Normal’ White Paper

ICIS have now published the blog’s 2010 Budget webinar as a White Paper. Please click here if you would like to obtain a free copy. My thanks go to Nigel Davis for his editing skills, and to Jamie Barnes for masterminding publication.

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US job losses hold back consumer spending

SOURCE: WWW.CHARTOFTHEDAY.COMUS consumers were responsible for 16% of total world GDP in 2008. But their spending is taking a battering from the combination of high unemployment and high oil prices. Both are reducing end-user demand for chemical products. New government estimates suggest US employment has fallen by 8.4m jobs since the downturn started in December […]

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Toyota’s Quality problems hit US auto sales

In August, Toyota (red line) briefly replaced GM (blue) as the US industry leader. Last month, however, its recall problems meant its sales fell 16% versus last January, an even worse performance than Chrysler (purple). Toyota’s problems are generally bad news for the industry, as they will inevitably impact overall public perceptions. Some will suspect […]

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No news on Obama’s plans for Fannie and Freddie

Its nearly 18 months since the US government nationalised the 2 home loan giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, at the start of the September 2008 financial crisis. Today, their current obligations amount to $3.7trn – larger that the total UK economy. And the Wall Street Journal notes that their cumulative losses on home loans […]

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Boom/Gloom Index slips again

There has been no New Year recovery for the IeC Boom/Gloom Index. It (blue column) slipped again last month, and is now back at September’s level. A further fall in February would take it close to the levels seen before the dramatic rally in financial markets that began last March. Equally, the Green Shoots spotted […]

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Crude oil markets lose support

The oil market rally seems finally to be running out of steam. For months now, it has been driven by the ‘correlation trade’, whereby Wall Street traders sell the US$ and buy crude oil. But as the chart shows, the two lines have now begun to diverge. Fundamentals have clearly started to affect the €:$ […]

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Global chemical output returns to growth

The above chart, based on data from the excellent weekly American Chemistry Council report, highlights the changes in chemical production over the past year. November saw world production (black line) finally turn positive again versus the previous 12 months, for the first time since August 2008. For an industry used to steady growth in line […]

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EU consumers worry about the economic outlook

European consumers remain very wary about the future. The slide above, from the monthly CEFIC report, shows that fear of unemployment is THE major concern. Almost half the population, a net balance of 44.3%, worried about this in December (yellow column), only slightly fewer than in November (blue column). This concern creates a major headwind […]

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China cuts back lending to the USA

The US government used to depend on China to fund its deficit. In 2006, China bought 47.4% of all US bonds issued. But last year, as the chart from the NY Times shows, China bought just 4.6%, leaving US investors to buy the rest. This is a yet another indicator of the profound changes underway […]

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US housing starts at 25% of 2006 peak

US housing is still limping along the bottom. December’s housing starts were only 0.2% above 2008 levels. Overall, 2009 saw just 554k starts, the lowest level for 50 years, despite the support of the $8k tax credit. During the Boom period, as the ACC’s chart above shows, starts (blue line) peaked at a 2.2 million […]

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