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 as 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

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Crude oil prices tumble on S&P 500 weakness

Sometimes, the blog gets lucky with its timing. A week ago, it wrote bearishly on crude oil markets, and suggested that “chemical companies need to keep a close eye on changing sentiment in financial markets”. By Friday, oil prices had tumbled 11%, as the US S&P 500 index continued to weaken from its 12 June […]

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China’s petchem imports soar on oil price speculation

After yesterday’s post, Edwin Pang of Credit Suisse in Hong Kong has raised an interesting question over the likely rationale for China’s massive increase in petchem imports, such as polyethylene (PE), in 2009. As the chart shows, its monthly PE demand (production plus net imports), was very steady in 2007-8. It averaged 980kt in 2007, […]

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China’s speculative surge slows

Q2 saw an outburst of speculative frenzy all around the world, and in a wide variety of financial markets. China’s Dalian futures market saw LLDPE volume soar to 80 million tonnes – around 4 times total annual world demand. China’s easy money policy meant it was easy to borrow to speculate on a quick recovery. […]

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Global downsizing needed to rebalance supply and demand

The chemical industry has benefited from a benign paradigm over the past 25 years: • Demographics in the west have encouraged consumption, as the baby-boom generation reached middle age • Globalisation meant this could be achieved at lower cost, by outsourcing production to lower-wage countries in the east • Workers in the east saved their […]

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IEA warns on economic downturn, lower oil demand

Crude oil markets have risen 60% in recent months, as traders speculate on a quick V-shaped economic recovery. But there are growing signs that reality, in the shape of evidence of falling US and global oil demand, may be about to reassert itself. Latest US statistics remain very negative: • Total oil product demand is […]

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US demand bouncing along the bottom

The good news from the latest reports on US house prices and auto sales was simple – things have stopped getting worse. US house prices saw “some stabilisation in some regions” according to the S&P/Case Shiller Index for April. Whilst auto sales are clearly bouncing along the bottom, down “only” 29% in June versus May’s […]

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Dow aligns US ethylene balances

Capacity closures are always hard to achieve in the petchem industry: • First, these are a ‘zero sum game’ – if I shut my plant, then other producers gain in terms of overall operating rates and margins, at my expense • Secondly, there is the integration issue. Closing a consuming plant also impacts output from […]

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Boom/Gloom Index rally continues

Last month, the blog introduced its new Boom/Gloom Index, designed to track sentiment in financial markets. The chart above now updates it to reflect the whole of June. The Index has continued to move up, and is close to the levels last seen in October 2007. Equally remarkable is the performance of the Green Shoots […]

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Germany, China, struggle as exports slump

Germany and China have benefited massively from the growth in world trade since 1980. As the Wall Street Journal chart shows, 47% of Germany’s GDP comes from exports. And China has a 37% dependence. US exports are just 13% of GDP, so it is more self-sufficient. Both countries have punched above their weight in terms […]

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The blog’s 2nd birthday

The blog is now 2 years old. Its readership is very loyal, and continues to grow. 64% of current readers bookmark the blog, and read it regularly. And it is now being read in 2088 cities and 111 countries – versus 1244 cities, and 89 countries, 6 months ago. Its regular readership is also very […]

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