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

2008 crude outlook

I had the opportunity last night to learn current thinking within the oil industry on the current outlook for oil markets, by attending the annual lecture of the British Institute of Energy Economists, kindly hosted by BP. A year ago, at the same event, the crude price was $51/bbl. Last night, the headlines were ‘major […]

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Forecasting crude oil prices

I have often wondered how the major investment banks arrive at their forecasts for long-term crude prices. Last night I found out how it is done at the biggest player, Barclays Capital. Dr Paul Horsnell, Head of Commodities Research, said that when he started in the role in 2003, he began by keeping close to […]

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The zeitgeist changes

The German word ‘Zeitgeist’ describes ‘the ethos or mood’ of a select group of people. And the financial zeitgeist is clearly changing. Back in August, I marvelled at the contradictory views then being expressed: ‘We see a lot of people on the Street who are scared. We are not scared. We are not panicked. We […]

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Wal-Mart, Tesco see slowing markets

Reports from leading retailers such as Wal-Mart and Tesco provide the best real-time insight into what is really happening in the wider economy. It is clear from both companies’ recent results that US and some other western consumer markets are slowing very quickly. This has critical implications for chemical companies. In the US, Wal-Mart see […]

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Growth slowdown underway

The OECD produces useful leading indicators each month, which try to capture turning points in the global economy. Its industrial production indicator is very relevant to chemicals, as 85% of demand comes from this sector. The latest outlook is summarised in Kevin Swift’s ACC report. The blue line is actual global industrial production, whilst the […]

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Financial players increase their bets on crude

Financial investors are already quite disruptive in crude oil markets. And their influence is set to grow this year. That’s the message from surveys by Barclays Global Investors and JP Morgan. $120bn is now invested in commodities as a class, with oil a major target. Even your own pension fund may be about to invest, […]

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China freezes energy costs, bans plastic bags

Reaction to $100 oil has been swift. Yesterday, the Chinese State Council decided to freeze the prices of oil products, natural gas and electricity, as well as public transportation. A measure of the government’s concern is that the meeting to approve the freeze was attended by premier Wen Jiabao. Chinese inflation is now at 6.9% […]

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Ford warns on auto sales

US autos are one of the major uses for chemicals. The ACC recently calculated that each auto contains $2441 worth of chemistry, with a wide range of companies supplying products such as antifreeze, sealants, coatings and plastics. In 2006, chemical sales to the industry were worth $32.6bn. A downturn in auto sales is therefore not […]

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Will lower interest rates help?

A reader has kindly sent me an interesting analysis from Richard Bernstein, Chief Investment Strategist at Merrill Lynch (ML)*. He argues that ‘the Fed can lower interest rates quite a lot, but they will likely have minimal impact on the economy unless credit creation grows’. Bernstein says their research indicates that US credit availability is […]

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SABIC – S&P follow Moody’s

S&P have quickly followed Moody’s in putting SABIC Innovative Plastics’ debt on creditwatch for a downgrade. As I commented with the Moody’s downgrade, this is not really to do with a newly discovered decline in the polycarbonate market. S&P have very competent chemical analysts, and must have been aware in August (when the original grade […]

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