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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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OPEC calls oil prices “beautiful”

OPEC’s meeting wrapped up quickly yesterday, with Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi once again saying oil prices today were “beautiful“. This highlights sentiment’s ability to take prices in the opposite direction to fundamentals. For certainly, on fundamentals, OPEC should have had a difficult session: • Quota compliance is now down at c50%, with Bloomberg estimating […]

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German auto sales fall 30%

European auto sales continue to depend on the influence of government stimulus programmes. The main feature of February’s results was the sharp decline in Germany’s sales. They were down 30% versus February 2009. This supports the fears of those who saw stimulus programmes as simply bringing forward new sales, not creating new demand. Overall, European […]

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Napa Valley foreclosures rise in ‘new normal’

Further evidence that the West is moving into a ‘new normal’ can be seen in the rising number of Napa Valley wineries facing foreclosures. The concept, adopted by the blog for its recent 2010 Outlook White Paper, suggests that the ‘conspicuous consumption’ seen in the West during the 2003-7 Boom is being replaced by more […]

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China’s housing market “a wild tiger”

More evidence is emerging of the real estate bubble that China’s easy money policy has created over the past year. Wen Jiabao, China’s premier, has described property markets in some cities as now being like a “wild tiger“. And new figures explain his concern, with the government reporting property sales rose an astonishing 80% last […]

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Value creation for People, Planet and Profit

The financial crisis has highlighted the need to move away from the simplistic approach of the “shareholder value” cult, where short-term targets dominate company thinking. Even Jack Welch, former GE CEO and original instigator of the approach, now agrees that the concept was “a dumb idea“. The blog therefore welcomes DSM’s new approach to the […]

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Global chemical production ends 2009 at Q4 2006 level

The good news is that global chemical production (the blue diamond line) grew during H2 2009. At the end of H1 2009, it had been equal to the level at the start of 2006. The bad news is that as the chart shows (based on data kindly supplied by Kevin Swift at the American Chemistry […]

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The need for innovation during the downturn

The blog was recently interviewed by ICIS’ Anna Jagger at Vienna Airport, on its way back from the World Refining Conference. The conversation covered the need for companies to focus on innovation, as well as on survival, during the downturn. It also highlighted specific examples of opportunities that could be pursued today, within the context […]

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“Green shoots” of recovery disappear from sight

A year ago, Ben Bernanke (head of the US Federal Reserve), startled financial markets with his claim that “green shoots” of recovery were now visible. This helped to lead to a major stock market rally, based on the sentiment that the US and other western economies would quickly bounce back to 2003-7 growth levels. Observers […]

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