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August 2009 highlights

Many readers have been out of the office during August on a well-deserved break. As usual, the blog is therefore highlighting below the main postings over the past month, in the hope this will help you to catch up quickly on key developments – please click on the highlighted title if you want to read […]

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Restocking continues, consumers become more frugal

There are clear signs in the above chart that the inventory cycle has turned positive again, as customers restock. Globally, data from the American Chemistry Council shows chemical production now down 10.5% versus last year, after being 13.4% down in March, in line with signs that GDP in the west is now stabilising. But will […]

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China’s economic recovery “uncertain” – premier

The blog was asked to write an analysis for ICIS Insight on the growing concerns about the outlook for China’s economy, and their potential impact on the global chemicals inustry. Please click here if you would like to download a pdf copy.

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US house sales rise as foreclosure increases

The US housing crisis is still getting worse, causing the weekend collapse of Guaranty Bank, the 11th largest US bank failure. As the Wall Street Journal notes, this marks a “new stage” in the banking crisis. Guaranty Financial had bought low quality, “toxic” mortgage loans, and its woes illustrate the “boomerang effect” that is now […]

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GDP’s “statistical recovery”

The blog is very interested to see the different outlooks being proposed by central bank heads. US Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke claimed Friday that the financial crisis was due to “panic”, rather than fundamental problems such as reckless lending. As a result, with the “panic” over, he now saw the potential for securing “a sustained […]

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Politicians start to favour real engineering instead of financial engineering

Many western governments have not seen manufacturing as a major priority in recent years. Instead, they have favoured moves to boost services, particularly the financial sector. US manufacturing employment, for example, has fallen from 19.6m in 1979 to just 11.8m today – the lowest level since 1941. Over the same period, China has taken the […]

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Asian irrigation upgrade a $bn opportunity

Some 20 years ago, the blog launched ICI Watercare – which became the largest water treatment business in the chemical industry. So it has kept a close eye on opportunities in the water industry ever since. The weak monsoon season in India highlights one such opportunity. As a new report from the UN Food and […]

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Managing through interruptions

Henry Mintzberg is one of the blog’s favourite management gurus. The reason is that he understands the constraints under which most managers operate. His view is that the best managers aren’t Superman or Superwoman, but “are simply ordinary, healthy people who aren’t too screwed up“. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he outlines […]

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Operating earnings hide US economic downturn

Companies normally have 3 ways of pleasing investors: • Meet or better expectations for revenue and earnings • Cut costs to meet earnings if revenues disappoint • Focus attention on a more favourable earnings definition When things are going well, the first option is preferred. But under the pressure of a sustained economic downturn, it […]

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OPEC says oil market still “fundamentally weak”

The latest OPEC monthly oil report paints a bearish picture of the market. It expects OPEC to supply 28.4mbd in 2009, down 7.5% from 2008 levels. And it forecasts more of the same for 2010, expecting to supply just 28 mbd. Its analysis suggests that “the market is still fundamentally weak amid ample stocks of […]

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