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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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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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” […]
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.” […]
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 […]
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 […]
Politicians and analysts often focus on selling dreams. Otherwise, we might not be tempted to buy their promises of better times ahead. But those running businesses have to remain realistic. BASF’s CEO, Jurgen Hambrecht, did exactly that in his comments on the outlook. And the above chart, from the UK’s National Institute of Economic and […]
Recent comments from LyondellBasell’s COO, and BASF’s CEO, seem worth highlighting as we come to the end of the results season. Ed Dineen noted that China’s polyethylene demand seems partly linked to changes in crude oil pricing, “It turned down somewhat as we saw crude retreat a little, but as crude turned back up toward […]
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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 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.