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

China lend Apr15

China lending curbs will hit global property bubbles

China’s interest bill this year is around $1.7tn, according to ratings agency Fitch.  And no, the “tn” isn’t a typo. China’s interest bill is indeed around the total size of India’s economy, and larger than the economies of S Korea ($1.3tn), Spain ($1.4tn) or Mexico ($1.3tn). Common sense tells us that no economy can afford […]

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Global chemical slowdown highlights China impact

The global chemical downturn has now been underway for nearly a year.  And latest data on regional production volume from the American Chemistry Council for March shows no sign of improvements, as the chart highlights: Global demand growth in March was just 2.9% (black line), versus the healthy 5% growth seen a year ago Asia has […]

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Swiss pensions bankrupt by 2025: US Social Security by 2030

Nobody would imagine that the SFr 800bn ($840bn) Swiss pension scheme could go bankrupt.  But Swiss pension experts suggest it “will be bankrupt within 10 years (without)…a radical overhaul of the retirement system.”  The problem is simple – a combination of low/negative interest rates and an increase in life expectancy. A major analysis in the Financial Times […]

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EU C3 Apr15d

Propylene strength a major support for European petchems

Vast over-expansion is underway in the global petrochemicals industry, as companies rush to build new capacity at a time when demand patterns are going through major change.  US companies and investors are worst exposed, as their plans are based on exporting polyethylene and other ethylene-based derivatives. There are a number of fundamental problems with these […]

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All autos Apr15

Q1 auto sales rise just 1.9% in world’s ‘Top 7′ markets

Its hard to be optimistic about the outlook for the global auto market.  The chart above of the Top 7 markets, which account for around 2/3rds of global sales, highlights the growing uncertainty.  It shows Q1 sales in 2015 (blue column) versus 2014 (blue).  Overall, these were up just 1.9% at 15.8m.  And although the […]

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China Q1 electricity consumption up only 1% as economy slows

More and more evidence is emerging of the major slowdown now underway in China’s economy. China’s leadership have warned this would take place since they took office 2 years ago.  And they have reinforced the message in recent months with their focus on explaining the move into the New Normal and its consequences. A major interview […]

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US oil imports Apr15

OPEC hit as ‘peak oil demand’ arrives and US imports fall

Oil market traders have been having fun in recent weeks, as they have managed to create guaranteed price movements every week: US oil inventory data is published on Tuesday and Wednesday This gives traders the chance to push prices lower as the inventories continue to rise US oil rig data is published on Friday This creates the chance to […]

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Germany could face €86bn bill from a Greek default

Who would pay the bill, if Greece defaulted on its current €320bn debt ($340bn)? This is no longer just a theoretical question.  Of course, we have all known since 2012 that Greece would never be able to repay its debt.  But the EU covered up this hard truth by a ‘pretend and extend’ policy: The default deal deferred repayment […]

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BRIJ auto markets continue to struggle

Q1 showed little sign of improvement in the world’s second-tier auto markets – Brazil, Russia, India, Japan. In total, their sales used to equal those of the EU, the world’s 3rd largest market.  But Q1 volumes saw a 16% decline versus 2014 levels, as the chart shows: Japan’s sales were boosted in 2014 (blue column) by buying ahead […]

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Lower oil prices support European cracker operating rates

Who would have believed, a few years ago, that European cracker operators would see an operating rate of 84% as something to celebrate?  It would have been thought a disaster prior to 2008, when rates typically ranged around 90%. But whilst nobody is flying flags, last year was the best year since 2007.  And as […]

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