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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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Regional competition set to grow in Asia, as export opportunities reduce and imports increase

The above chart presents an excellent snapshot of the development of Asia’s chemical industry over the past 20 years. It comes from the American Chemistry Council’s global production report, and shows volume growth in each country/region, with a base of 100 in 2002. • China (blue line) has seen the largest growth over the past […]

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CEOs remain cautious over 2010 Outlook

The blog’s quarterly survey of company Outlook statements shows CEOs remain very cautious. There has been a rebound after the destocking disaster of Q4 2008 – Q1 2009. But there seems little confidence that we will quickly return to the levels of demand and margin seen in the 2003-7 Boom period. China’s stimulus and loan […]

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World trade sees biggest fall in 65 years, GDP declines

World trade fell 12% last year, its worst decline since 1945. First estimates also suggest global GDP fell 2.2%, according to Pascal Lamy, head of the World Trade Organisation. This confirms the World Bank’s fears back last March, that the global economy might shrink for the first time since World War 2. Lamy went on […]

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