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 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

German driving

Discounts support EU auto sales as Paris plans diesel car ban

A mild winter, combined with 20% price discounts, has kept EU auto sales in growth mode.  Latest data from ACEA shows January sales at 999k were the best for the month since 2011′s 1.042m.  The chart above shows the 12-month trend line since 2005, to avoid seasonal fluctuations with the monthly data (blue line): Sales were […]

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PVC export boom to Turkey supports EU chloralkali demand

European chloralkali producers ended up having a relatively good year in 2014, despite having been over-optimistic about likely demand levels in Q3.  They held operating rates at 78% in Q3, in line with H1 levels.  But realism soon prevailed, and producers quickly cut rates to average 75% in Q4 to compensate. The chart shows the detail of developments since 2009 (based […]

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Markets pause for breath as oil traders enjoy upstream volatility

There are some signs of a recovery in some markets, but the overall picture is still very quiet for what should be the seasonally strongest quarter of the year for the West.  Markets should also have been strong in Asia, in the run-up to this week’s Lunar New Year (LNY), but they have remained relatively […]

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2014 another bad year for force majeures

2013 wasn’t a good year for chemical plant reliability.  As I noted a year ago, force majeures (when plants go offline unexpectedly) were close to a record level. Very worryingly, 2014 turns out to have been far worse as the chart above shows, based on the reports in ICIS news: 2014 saw a total of […]

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Vast amounts of stimulus have not made China “middle class”

Debt can’t make a country middle-class overnight.  Even a massive amount of debt can’t achieve this.  Even the largest amount of debt in history can’t do this.  China’s experience since 2007, when it increased debt four-fold, proves this. As McKinsey have reported, China increased its debt from $7tn in 2007 to $28tn by the middle of […]

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Deflation gains: China’s plastics market sees over-capacity

More and more commentators are beginning to recognise that deflation is becoming inevitable in many major economies: China’s producer prices fell -4.3% last month, and its consumer prices rose just 0.8% Eurozone consumer prices fell in December to -0.2%, and are likely to have fallen further in January US prices rose just 0.8% in December and are […]

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Mckinsey says global debt now 3x global GDP, and rising

A major new report from consultants McKinsey confirms my concerns over the dramatic increase in global debt levels since stimulus policies began in 2008.   As their chart above highlights: Global debt has risen by $57tn to $199tn since 2007, nearly 3x global GDP Government debt is up by $25tn, with three-quarters of this in the developed […]

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Oil prices jump 20% in 2 days in SuperBowl weekend coup

An astonishing coup appears to have begun 10 days ago, in the last 45 minutes of trading in US oil markets.  Yet we still don’t know who master-minded it, or their full objectives.  . What happened to oil prices?  Prices jumped 8% in the last 45 minutes of trading on Friday 30 January, taking Brent to $53/bbl and […]

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54000 millionaires needed to buy new London apartments

‘Nothing succeeds like excess’.  That seems to be the motto of London property developers at the moment.  According to researchers LonRes, developers are currently building or planning the staggering total of 54000 new luxury homes in central London. These will all be offered at prices of £1m ($1.5m) and higher, according to the Financial Times.  Yet just 3900 […]

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US stock markets weaken as bond yields signal deflation is near

Increasing volatility in major Western financial markets suggests they are struggling to maintain their momentum. It is certainly hard to be very optimistic about the outlook for the major Western stock markets this year.  The reason is that investors are still failing to think about political risk.  They continue to believe, as they did a year ago, […]

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