China’s Dalian futures market has been the global centre of speculative polymers trading for over a year. It traded an amazing 80 million tonnes of LLDPE in April 2009, as excitement built. And volume (blue line) remained positive on a year-on-year basis until January. But since then, comparisons have been negative: • February’s volumes were […]
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The blog’s White Paper, Budgeting for a New Normal, has proved extraordinarily popular since it was published earlier this year. As a result, ICIS have asked me to produce a mid-year Update, to review developments over the past 6 months. This will appear shortly. In the meantime, ICIS’ Will Beacham interviewed me in London’s Trafalgar […]
A month ago, Nigel Davis called attention in his ICIS Insight column to the alarming fall taking place in US ethylene values. He noted that “inventories seem to have filled“, and presciently concluded that “buyers have been on the look-out for the turn and, by all accounts, expect any downward movement to be swift and […]
The problems in US housing remain a major cause of concern for global chemical markets. As the above chart shows – from the American Chemistry Council (ACC) weekly report – housing starts (blue line) and building permits (red) are still at very low levels. April’s housing starts were up 41% versus 2009 to 672k. And […]
April 2009 wasn’t a great month for EU auto sales. Volumes (red line) were down 11.6% versus April 2008. But sales were starting to benefit from the introduction of government scrappage schemes. A year later, as the above chart from ACEA (the European auto manu-facturers association) shows, this support has begun to fade: • April […]
The blog has sometimes despaired of the cheer-leading and wishful thinking of too many leading policy-makers. As I argued in the Financial Times in March 2007, before the Crisis began, “they seem to confuse being market-friendly with being friendly to markets“. It therefore welcomes the realism being shown by the UK’s new coalition government. Today, […]
On 6 May, the blog warned that “it would be very nervous indeed about holding a long position” in crude oil. And as the chart shows, its fears were well-founded. Since 4 May: • WTI has fallen 19%, and $16/bbl, from its $86/bbl peak • The euro has also fallen 8%, and 6c, versus the […]
The blog is a great believer in the forecasting power of the major retailers. The top 3 global companies, Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Tesco all identified a change in consumer buying patterns as early as July 2007, when Tesco warned that “coming down the road is a tougher time“. Worryingly, their most recent comments give no […]
The global economy and the chemical industry have been boosted, since the Crisis began in 2008, by massive government stimulus programmes in areas such as autos and housing. Now the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has released a new report, focusing on what happens next. It warns that “general government debt is expected to rise by […]
10 years ago, Dow was in the middle of completing its $12bn Union Carbide acquisition. This made it the world’s second largest chemical company, and a leading player in Basic petchems and polymers. More recently, however, higher oil prices have made life increasingly difficult for chemical businesses that lack upstream integration. Dow’s response, born of […]
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Paul Hodges is Chairman of International eChem, trusted commercial advisers to the global chemical industry.
The aim of this blog is to share ideas about the influences that may shape the chemical industry over the next 12 – 18 months. It will try to look behind today’s headlines, to understand what may happen next in important issues such as oil prices, economic growth and the environment. We may also have some fun, investigating a few of the more offbeat events that take place from time to time. Please do join me and share your thoughts.
Between us, we will hopefully develop useful insights into the key factors that will drive the industry's future performance.