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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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Electric cars could change naphtha balances

Last week, Nissan said its new Leaf model had achieved 367 mpg (156 kpl) in city driving. And this week, GM said its Volt could get an average 100 mpg rating. Pedro Spohr of Galp in Portugal was therefore clearly right last October, when he suggested to the blog that the new range of electric […]

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Cerberus loses $6bn in just 2 years with Chrysler

Cerberus’ timing was clearly not very good with its Chrysler acquisition in Q3 2007. And Steve Feinberg, Cerberus co-founder, admitted this when he told the New York Times “we were too optimistic on timing. Maybe what we should have done was not bought it.” So far, they have lost $6bn of their original $7.4bn investment. […]

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Benzene signals a market top

As regular readers will know, the blog believes benzene is a good leading indicator for chemical demand, due to its widespread use in the industry. Last November saw its price “on the floor“, indicating a major downturn, and it remained there until March, before its price began to “surge” in early April as destocking ended […]

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The banks’ plumbing systems appear to be blocked

The blog’s favourite financial journalist, Gillian Tett, has written an excellent article summarising the similarities between today’s problems in the western banking system, and those of Japan’s during the ‘lost decade’ of the 1990′s. Her point is that although central banks are pouring money into the system via ‘quantitative easing’, it is clearly not reaching […]

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Procter & Gamble goes Basic

As the downturn began In July 2007, leading retailers Tesco and Wal-Mart “signalled a major shift in consumer priorities“. And Tesco added a warning that “If you don’t have the basic things right, you will be talking at the edge rather than at the centre“. 2 years later Procter & Gamble, one of the world’s […]

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