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Time to look forward, not back, for European petrochemicals

The European petrochemicals industry is in crisis.  Operating rates dropped below 85% in H2 2008, and have never recovered.  Now there is a danger that it faces death by a thousand cuts.  This would be a tragedy for the European economy, as it would imply the loss of tens of thousands of well-paid jobs along […]

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Unilever says Q2 market growth slows in emerging countries, developed countries weak

The global economy really isn’t getting any better.  That’s the key conclusion from the blog’s quarterly survey of company results for Q2. Of course, some companies are doing well – either because of shale gas economics, or their own market positioning.  But consumer giant Unilever summarised the general picture very well: “Market growth continued to slow in emerging […]

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2 dates for the diary

Last May’s China Transformation webinar with John Richardson attracted great interest.  We are therefore arranging a free follow-up webinar on Tuesday 9 September.  As before, it will be run twice, to allow blog readers in different regions to attend. This ‘China Economic Transformation II’ webinar will cover these key areas: The likely impact on global markets of the […]

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European chloralkali output hit as growth slows, Ukraine volumes drop

Chlorine and caustic soda are the bedrock of modern industry.  They are used in everything from laundry products to pharmaceuticals.  So changes in their business performance are a most valuable guide to what is happening in the real world in which we all live. The chart shows the detail of developments in the European industry, […]

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Slide in Q2 operating rates is bad omen for H2 economic outlook

The chemical industry is the best leading indicator for the global economy.  The slide in operating rates (OR%) around the world during the seasonally strong Q2 period. is a clear warning that global economic growth may be stalling. This should be a major wake-up call for anyone still hoping that growth may recover to the Boomer-led SuperCycle level.  The latest update from […]

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EU cracker operating rates remain near record lows

An ageing population and record annual levels of oil prices create massive headwinds for Europe’s petrochemical producers.  One means demand growth is much reduced from the SuperCycle.  The other means these lower volumes cost more to produce. What a pity, you might say, that the industry is not part of the financial sector.  Then it […]

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Markets remain “volatile and challenging” says BASF chairman

Nothing has really changed over the past year.  That seems to be the key conclusion from the blog’s quarterly summary of company results for Q1. A year ago, BASF noted that “achieving our earnings target is significantly more challenging today than we had expected”.  This month, chairman Kurt Bock “warned the markets will remain volatile and […]

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C2 pricing Jan14

Ethylene prices have 96% correlation to oil prices

Companies are about to review their Q1 performance, and re-forecast profit and revenue for the rest of the year.  Most will be disappointed with results so far, as the long-promised economic recovery has again failed to appear. This will be no surprise to blog readers.  But there is another and connected issue for Management Teams to worry […]

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China focuses on domestic PE production, ME/SEA imports

China’s growth has been the main support for the global economy since the Crisis began in Q4 2008.  The slide above captures the extent of this in polyethylene (PE), one of the world’s largest chemical markets, based on data from China’s chemical association and Global Trade Information Services: The total market grew 11% in the 3 […]

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Q4 results show companies still waiting for something to turn up

We all live in hope.  That seems to be the underlying message from the blog’s quarterly survey of company results. Nothing has changed since last quarter or indeed Q2, when BASF noted that “achieving our earnings target is significantly more challenging today than we had expected”. Yet this latest quarter was, of course, supposed to be […]

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