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US consumers enter the ‘new normal’

The US consumer accounts for 16% of total global GDP, with a value of $10trn. By comparison, total Asian consumption is under $5trn. China’s consumption in 2008 was just $1.6trn, about equal to the UK. Changes in US consumer behaviour are therefore critical to global GDP, and hence to chemical demand. The chart above, from […]

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US company earnings still 40% below 2007 peak

The US 2009/Q4 reporting season is now virtually complete. It provides a valuable snapshot of company health as the US recession ends: • Reported earnings (red line) for the S&P 500 have recovered to $51. This is partly due to loss-makers such as GM having dropped out of the index due to bankruptcy. But it […]

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Asian PE margins under pressure as oil prices rise

China’s demand has been the main driver for the global chemical industry over the past year. And prices on China’s Dalian polymers futures exchange have been a key indicator of the boom. But now, the rally seems to be running out of steam. The key signs are in the above chart: • At the end […]

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Toyota’s discounts drive US auto sales rise

The blog is always grateful for good news, no matter the reason. Thus it welcomes March’s rise in US auto sales to 850k from February’s 615k (black line). The driver for the rise was Toyota’s (red line) record level of price discounts, as it aimed to overcome its disastrous sales slump after the quality problems. […]

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Eurozone unemployment hits 10%

The rate of unemployment is an important leading indicator for chemical industry demand. It measures the number of people who currently don’t have much spare cash to spend on discretionary purchases. And when the jobless rate is rising, it also impacts the spending patterns of those still in work, as they often choose to save […]

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Roubini cautions on China growth, highlights India

Prof Nouriel Roubini, one of the few to forecast the current Crisis, is very positive about the opportunities for growth in India over the next 20 years. Speaking in Mumbai, he argued that: • “While the economies of India and China are not large enough to lead global growth, emerging markets remain ‘bright spots’ compared […]

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Seasonal strength returns to chemicals demand

In December, the blog suggested that “2010 might see the industry return to its normal seasonal pattern, with a strong H1, followed by a slow Q3 holiday season, and then a final burst of activity in October/November before the Xmas break“. The chart above, from the excellent American Chemistry Council’s weekly report, provides welcome evidence […]

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European propylene, butadiene, prices rise above ethylene

A remarkable thing happened this week in European olefin markets. Contract prices for butadiene and propylene were finalised for April/Q2 at higher levels than for ethylene. This has never happened before, in Europe or other regions. The chart, based on ICIS pricing data, shows how ethylene (blue line) has normally been the highest priced olefin. […]

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Sir James Black dies

The death of Sir James Black, Nobel Prize winner and one of the giants of the modern pharmaceutical industry, has been announced this week. He began work at the blog’s former company, ICI after the War. The idea was to build on the success seen with drugs such as penicillin. It was, as we know […]

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US housing a long way from full recovery

US housing used to be a $35bn chemicals market, with 2.2m housing starts in 2006, each with a $16.7k chemicals value. Last year, total housing starts were just 550k, for a value of only $9bn. And as the chart above shows, from the American Chemistry Council, the annualised rate (blue line) was just 575k in […]

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