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Boom/Gloom Index remains range-bound

The momentum-driven rally in financial markets has slowed recently, with many now in temporary trading ranges. And this is reflected in December’s IeC Boom/Gloom Index (above). The Index (blue column) has been steady since June. Underlying fundamentals show no sign of improvement. The ‘green shoots’ index (green line), which tracks expectations for a quick economic […]

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1 in 4 US children on food stamp aid

Wall Street may be paying out $bns in bonuses. But in the rest of the USA, rising unemployment and foreclosure are having a major impact. In a new analysis, the New York Times reveals that the Federal food stamp programme “now helps feed one in eight Americans and one in four children“. Renamed the Supplemental […]

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China’s polyethylene imports surge 63%

The above chart, courtesy of trade data experts GTIS, shows the extraordinary leap in China’s polyethylene imports this year. They have surged 63% January – October in 2009 (blue bar) to 6.7 million tonnes versus 4.2 MT in 2007 (green bar) and 2008 (orange bar). Many countries have seen massive rises. Iran exported 404kt vs […]

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Wise words from Shell, BASF and Reliance

In difficult times, the industry looks to the major companies for their advice. And they certainly provided this at our 8th European Conference (co-organised with ICIS), Shell’s Jonathan Forbes-Lane, European GM, focused on the “gale-force recession” now underway. He expected “prices to stay volatile and unpredictable because they were being pulled in opposing directions by […]

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US housing remains weak as unemployment rises

The US housing market was worth $35bn a year in terms of chemical sales in 2006. In that Boom year, 2.2m homes were built, each using $16k of chemicals. But as the chart above shows, from the ACC’s weekly report, there has been a steady decline since then. The recent introduction of the $8000 first-time […]

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Reported earnings still forecast slow recovery

The Q3 company results season is now almost complete. It suggests that: • Companies still find it difficult to forecast revenue increases • Earnings are instead being boosted by cost cutting eg jobs In the US, the average workweek is now at a record low of 33 hours. Whilst EU companies are worrying whether today’s […]

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IEA, OPEC, worry about high oil prices and CO2

The new World Energy Outlook from the International Energy Agency (IEA) spells out two major challenges. It: • “Identifies higher oil prices, coupled with the downturn in oil sector investment, as a serious threat to the world economy, just as it is beginning to recover“. • Suggests that “a profound transformation of the energy sector” […]

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Wal-Mart sees global price deflation continuing

The blog regards Wal-Mart and other major retailers as excellent leading indicators of trends in the wider economy. It was therefore concerned to see CFO Tom Schoewe reporting today that Wal-Mart continues to “operate in a very challenging economy“, where the key driver is to provide “the lowest prices to our customers around the world.” […]

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Insolvent US banks can’t lend

Many US policymakers are still in denial about the underlying causes of the downturn. They argue it is due to a lack of liquidity, and are thus encouraging ‘hot money’ to flood into financial markets. But the new ‘bubbles’ created by this wishful thinking, such as today’s $80/bbl oil prices, are making the underlying problem […]

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US unemployment rate now 10.2%

The US accounts for 23% of global GDP. Its economy is 3 times larger than the No 2 country, Japan. And most critically for the chemical industry, 70% of US GDP is consumer-based. Developments in US housing/construction, auto and electronics industries are therefore the biggest single influence on global chemical sales. In turn, the level […]

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