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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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Dalian polymer volumes remain under pressure

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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Chemical price falls could signal slowdown

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 […]

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Asian polymer prices and margins begin to fall

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 […]

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US housing remains weak as foreclosures rise

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 […]

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