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

ExxonMobil regains top place

After 5 months, ExxonMobil is once again the world’s largest company by market capitalisation. PetroChina had overtaken it last November, but has since lost half its value in China’s stock market decline. Today, PC is worth $453bn, versus EM’s $455bn. China’s stock market has lost 25% so far this year. But PC has been particularly […]

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FT’s subprime jokes page

Those who liked my earlier posting about Margin calling, might like to look at the new online Financial Times page devoted to subprime jokes. For example, ‘What’s the definition of an optimistic investment banker?’ ‘Someone who irons 5 business shirts on a Sunday night.’ It also mentions the prospect of a new breakfast cereal being […]

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Oil price volatility rises

Volatility has been rising in the crude oil and feedstocks markets. This is because individual players have completely different strategies. In turn, this makes it difficult for chemical companies to forecast short-term feedstock costs. It also makes it difficult to maintain margins. Last Monday, crude reached a new high of $111/bbl. Then, as the scale […]

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US housing weakens again

The above chart comes from Kevin Swift’s weekly report for the American Chemistry Council. Sadly, it paints a downbeat picture for the near-term outlook for the US chemical industry. It shows that US housing starts fell a further 0.6% in February, whilst building permits fell 7.8%. Housing starts are now down 28% versus a year […]

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A simple guide to the credit crisis

The New York Times has an excellent feature today that aims to explain how ‘US sub-prime mortgages could take out the whole global financial system’. I know that many readers found the Bird/Fortune video on the subject very useful last December. So I thought you might like to know about this new analysis. The Times […]

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Benzene prices hit a ceiling

Benzene prices may be about to tell us something quite important about future profitability trends for the chemical industry. As the chart shows, benzene has hit a price ceiling at around $1200/t over the past 4 years in European markets. Yet crude has been climbing, from an average $38/bbl in 2004 to average $95/bbl so […]

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The US$ tumbles

The US$ took a major tumble yesterday, as traders decided the Bear Stearns news meant there was little risk of central bank intervention. Against the Japanese yen it fell almost 2.5% during the day, closing at ¥97.35, as shown on the chart. It also fell 2% against the Swiss Franc to SwFr 0.98, and continues […]

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Northern Rock, Carlyle, now Bear Stearns

We have now seen 3 financial disasters in a matter of days: • Northern Rock, the UK’s 5th largest mortgage lender, was nationalised last month, after failing to secure sufficient funds to continue lending. • Carlyle, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, saw their $16.6bn mortgage fund default on Thursday, due to its […]

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‘Who is this guy Margin that keeps calling me?’

I am indebted to Paul Krugman for passing on this piece of black humour, now going the rounds in financial markets. Unfortunately, these problems are getting closer to home. Carlyle, who have a number of private equity investments in chemical companies, defaulted on a $16.6bn bond fund today.

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Fed/IMF worry that US may see ‘severe recession’

The Financial Times this morning reports that the US Fed fears that ‘the economic downturn in the US could turn into a deep and protracted recession of the kind that plagued Japan’. Clearly based on interviews with senior Fed officials and other policymakers, the two articles (one for the European edition, and one for the […]

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