In February, the blog worried that we were at the start of a cycle of deflation, as depicted in the above chart from Comstock Partners. The warning signs were that major excess capacity was developing in many industries, and some major countries were devaluing. Since then, the US and China have both undertaken competitive devaluations […]
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Leading indicators are useful reference tools, but sometimes they can also mislead. The chart above, from the ACC’s excellent weekly report, seems to provide a good example of this problem. The blue line shows the official Leading Indicator for the OECD area plus the 6 major non-OECD countries. It suggests that a strong recovery is […]
The new World Energy Outlook from the International Energy Agency (IEA) spells out two major challenges. It: • “Identifies higher oil prices, coupled with the downturn in oil sector investment, as a serious threat to the world economy, just as it is beginning to recover“. • Suggests that “a profound transformation of the energy sector” […]
The blog regards Wal-Mart and other major retailers as excellent leading indicators of trends in the wider economy. It was therefore concerned to see CFO Tom Schoewe reporting today that Wal-Mart continues to “operate in a very challenging economy“, where the key driver is to provide “the lowest prices to our customers around the world.” […]
A key driver for the rally in crude oil markets has been the increase in China’s demand. The assumption has been that this confirms economic growth is recovering strongly. Crude oil imports have certainly been rising since Q1, and have recently averaged 500kbpd more than 2008. Refinery runs have also been higher. However, new analysis […]
The US accounts for 23% of global GDP. Its economy is 3 times larger than the No 2 country, Japan. And most critically for the chemical industry, 70% of US GDP is consumer-based. Developments in US housing/construction, auto and electronics industries are therefore the biggest single influence on global chemical sales. In turn, the level […]
Politicians and analysts often focus on selling dreams. Otherwise, we might not be tempted to buy their promises of better times ahead. But those running businesses have to remain realistic. BASF’s CEO, Jurgen Hambrecht, did exactly that in his comments on the outlook. And the above chart, from the UK’s National Institute of Economic and […]
Recent comments from LyondellBasell’s COO, and BASF’s CEO, seem worth highlighting as we come to the end of the results season. Ed Dineen noted that China’s polyethylene demand seems partly linked to changes in crude oil pricing, “It turned down somewhat as we saw crude retreat a little, but as crude turned back up toward […]
The blog is changing its US auto sales chart, now that a year has passed since volumes collapsed last October. Year-on-year % changes become meaningless as a result. Instead, it will now show monthly volumes, on a total US basis (blue line) and for the major producers (dotted lines). Key highlights this month are: • […]
This year’s speculative boom in China’s economy, created by major government lending and stimulus programmes, now seems to be ending. The evidence for this is in the above chart, showing LLDPE futures trading on the Dalian exchange. This hit 80 million tonnes (MT) in April, versus total global output for this type of polyethylene of […]
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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 as 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.