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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USA exits recession

The IeC Boom/Gloom Index (blue column) moved up sharply last month, as Western stock markets rallied further on news that the major economies were now officially exiting recession. Various definitions exist of recession, with most countries referencing 2 consecutive quarters of negative GDP. The USA measures recessions differently, but the head of the official Business […]

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Asian PE margins under pressure as oil prices rise

China’s demand has been the main driver for the global chemical industry over the past year. And prices on China’s Dalian polymers futures exchange have been a key indicator of the boom. But now, the rally seems to be running out of steam. The key signs are in the above chart: • At the end […]

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Toyota’s discounts drive US auto sales rise

The blog is always grateful for good news, no matter the reason. Thus it welcomes March’s rise in US auto sales to 850k from February’s 615k (black line). The driver for the rise was Toyota’s (red line) record level of price discounts, as it aimed to overcome its disastrous sales slump after the quality problems. […]

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Eurozone unemployment hits 10%

The rate of unemployment is an important leading indicator for chemical industry demand. It measures the number of people who currently don’t have much spare cash to spend on discretionary purchases. And when the jobless rate is rising, it also impacts the spending patterns of those still in work, as they often choose to save […]

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Roubini cautions on China growth, highlights India

Prof Nouriel Roubini, one of the few to forecast the current Crisis, is very positive about the opportunities for growth in India over the next 20 years. Speaking in Mumbai, he argued that: • “While the economies of India and China are not large enough to lead global growth, emerging markets remain ‘bright spots’ compared […]

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Brenntag’s €2.7bn IPO

The blog congratulates Brenntag, the leading distribution company, on its successful flotation yesterday. Its shares were issued at €50, and rose to €52 in early trading, giving it a market capitalisation of €2.7bn ($3.6bn). New private equity owners BC Partners sold 4.45m shares to raise €223m, and now own 71% of the company. Brenntag itself […]

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Seasonal strength returns to chemicals demand

In December, the blog suggested that “2010 might see the industry return to its normal seasonal pattern, with a strong H1, followed by a slow Q3 holiday season, and then a final burst of activity in October/November before the Xmas break“. The chart above, from the excellent American Chemistry Council’s weekly report, provides welcome evidence […]

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European propylene, butadiene, prices rise above ethylene

A remarkable thing happened this week in European olefin markets. Contract prices for butadiene and propylene were finalised for April/Q2 at higher levels than for ethylene. This has never happened before, in Europe or other regions. The chart, based on ICIS pricing data, shows how ethylene (blue line) has normally been the highest priced olefin. […]

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Sir James Black dies

The death of Sir James Black, Nobel Prize winner and one of the giants of the modern pharmaceutical industry, has been announced this week. He began work at the blog’s former company, ICI after the War. The idea was to build on the success seen with drugs such as penicillin. It was, as we know […]

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Financial investors hike oil prices

“Crude oil is (now) more than just a physical product“, according to NPRA Chairman William Klesse. As he noted, “Today there is ample crude in the world, and crude is not at $80/bbl because of physical markets“. This was a strong statement from the head of the US National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, at the […]

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