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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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EU auto sales fall 7% in April

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 […]

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Preparing for an Age of Austerity in public spending

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, […]

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Crude oil falls as markets reassess economic outlook

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 […]

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