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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China aims to boost domestic consumption

The dramatic rise of Asia’s economies, including China, has been based on an export-driven model. Their growth powered ahead as long as the West grew, and companies continued to outsource much of their basic manufacturing activity to lower-cost countries. In 2001, for example, China’s exports were just 20% of GDP. But by 2007, they had […]

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US consumers enter the ‘new normal’

The US consumer accounts for 16% of total global GDP, with a value of $10trn. By comparison, total Asian consumption is under $5trn. China’s consumption in 2008 was just $1.6trn, about equal to the UK. Changes in US consumer behaviour are therefore critical to global GDP, and hence to chemical demand. The chart above, from […]

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US oil stocks remain at multi-year highs

The chart above, from the insightful Petromatrix report, highlights the on-going divergence between the bullish sentiment driving prices, and the fundamental reality of crude oil markets. It totals US stocks of crude oil and the main products (gasoline, distillate and jet kero), by year. And it shows very clearly that stocks in 2010 (red line) […]

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US company earnings still 40% below 2007 peak

The US 2009/Q4 reporting season is now virtually complete. It provides a valuable snapshot of company health as the US recession ends: • Reported earnings (red line) for the S&P 500 have recovered to $51. This is partly due to loss-makers such as GM having dropped out of the index due to bankruptcy. But it […]

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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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