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US housing starts down 17% as tax incentives end

Spring should be a boom time for building new homes in the USA. But in fact, May’s single family housing starts (bottom chart) fell 17.2% versus April, as the $8k tax credit ended. Yet affordability should be high, with prices down 30% from the peak, and mortgage rates at the lowest levels for decades. This […]

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EU auto sales fall further 9% in May

The blog has been out and about in recent days, visiting some of the major European chemical companies. Most continue to see strong order books. In normal circumstances, this would lead to considerable confidence about the outlook for the rest of the year. However, there are increasing fears, as Nigel Davis has noted in ICIS […]

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Western retailers rely on luxury or budget sales

Consumer spending, particularly in the developed economies, is critical to the chemical industry. And there is increasing evidence that a two-tier pattern is developing: • Wealthier consumers are maintaining their spend, helped by lower interest costs on mortgages and recent stock market gains • Lower and middle-income consumers remain under pressure, as they are more […]

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“The name is Bond, Japanese Government Bond”

The blog, an old-fashioned romantic, has always thought that flowers were the way to woo a lady. But apparently no longer in Japan, according to government adverts. Bloomberg reports the Ministry of Finance is advertising Japanese Government Bonds (JGBs) under the slogan “Men who hold JGBs are popular with women!!”. The campaign, developed by Japan’s […]

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China focuses on domestic issues, risks US anger

China is a very difficult country for foreigners to understand. The blog suspects that the best approach is to apply Winston Churchill’s insight on Russia, namely “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is […]

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USA money supply slows to near-record lows

“Money makes the world go round” as the song from the musical Cabaret tells us. But the chart above, from BofA Merrill Lynch, suggests there isn’t too much money circulating in the world’s largest economy today. It shows M3 (the broadest measure of money supply). Merrill note that its growth is now close to the […]

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Q3 may see seasonal weakness

6 months ago, the blog suggested that normal seasonal demand patterns could resume in 2010. And it optimistically forecast “a strong H1“, on the basis that “consumers should need to restock ahead of the usual Q2 demand peak in autos/construction“. This optimism was based on the American Chemistry Council’s excellent analysis of polymer demand, which […]

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Another “unexpected” economic report

Every day, the word “unexpected” appears next to a downbeat economic report. The latest example was yesterday’s US employment report, where the consensus forecast was for a jobs gain of 180k. Yet it has been clear for months that this has been a ‘jobless recovery’, and so the actual figure of only 41k new jobs […]

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Fear of Austerity replaces hopes of Green Shoots

A year ago, the blog launched its IeC Boom/Gloom Index. This was based on the concept that markets are driven by both sentiment and fundamentals. And whilst fundamentals can be understood by analysing hard data (eg auto sales, housing starts), it is equally important to understand sentiment, and what markets think will happen next. Analysing […]

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Budgeting for a New Normal: a mid-year Update

The blog’s White Paper, ‘Budgeting for a New Normal’, proved enormously popular when it was published earlier this year. ICIS therefore suggested that it would be useful to update it, 6 months later. This Update is now published. It looks at the current state of the global economy, six months on, and then covers the […]

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