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Q2 results highlight continued uncertainty over outlook

The chemical industry continues to be the best leading indicator we have for the global economy. Whilst stock markets were continuing to move higher during H1, its depressed level of capacity utilisation was signalling that the economy was far more fragile than generally realised. Company results for Q2 reflect this concern. Of course some, tied […]

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Investors worry US ethylene expansions mimic mining downturn

I spent most of last week in New York and Boston, meeting with major investors.  One key topic on all their agendas was the major downturn underway in the global mining industry.  The connection with my visit was that some have already begun to worry that the planned US ethylene expansions may lead to a […]

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H1 sees worst-ever number of chemical plant force majeures

The first half of 2015 was the worst half-year for force majeures in the chemical industry since reliable data became available via ICIS news in 2005.  As the chart shows, there were 479 reports of outages, more than double H1 2014 and well above the previous peak of 375 in H1 2011. This is absolutely […]

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ICIS Innovation Awards could be key to your future success

Innovation is the life-blood of the chemical industry. It is also a critical success factor as we transition to the New Normal. Many of today’s plants and processes are simply too old and inefficient to remain competitive in a world of slow and volatile economic growth. Equally important is that changing demand patterns will demand […]

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US producers face uphill battle to increase PE sales in China

China is the world’s largest polyethylene market.  One-third of the way through the year, it  is therefore interesting to analyse the ratio of its own production versus imports, and look at relative import market shares.  The chart shows annual data since 2005, with 2015 data to April, based on trade data from Global Trade Information […]

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Chemical companies highlight increased uncertainty and volatility in Q1 results

Volatility creates uncertainty.  And uncertainty can easily lead to paralysis, if a company hasn’t planned ahead for the range of potential scenarios that might develop.  This is the risk highlighted in my usual analysis of quarterly results. A key warning sign is the divide that has developed recently in performance in different regions and industry sectors, […]

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PE exporters face problems as China slows, global capacity expands

China no longer wants to be the ‘manufacturing capital of the world’.  Its ‘New Normal’ policies are instead taking it in a new direction, where growth will be based on income levels, not property wealth effects.  So this seems a good moment to step back, and focus on the changes this is likely to bring. […]

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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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China’s PE imports tumble as market slows, local output rises

The above chart is a major wake-up call for anyone who still believes that China will continue to import ever-increasing volumes of major commodities such as polyethylene (PE).  It suggests demand and import growth are now at much lower levels than in the past, and may even have begun to peak. The chart shows cumulative volumes in […]

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Sinopec Mar15

Sinopec confirms move into China’s New Normal economy

Sinopec, China’s largest chemical company, has just published its operating results for 2014.  We don’t yet have all the details, but the chart above highlights the key points of its cumulative performance since it first filed public accounts in 1998: It has invested Rmb 288bn ($41bn) in capital expenditure for refining, and Rmb 239bn ($33bn) for chemicals (blue columns) […]

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