In 2006, there were 2.2 million US housing starts. These were worth $35bn of chemical sales. Currently, and even with the support of an $8k tax credit, they are running at an annual rate of just 600k, worth $10bn. This is the lowest level since records began in 1960. Even in 1975, 1981 and 1981, […]
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Sometimes a picture is worth 1000 words. The chart above, from the New York Times, highlights the massive changes that are taking place in world trade flows. These are of critical importance to the chemical industry, one of the world’s most globalised businesses. • Firstly, the volume of world trade has fallen to 2006 levels, […]
This being Budget Week in the blog, it seems appropriate to look at the views of Larry Summers, US economics chief, to understand his expectations for an economic recovery. His main concept is of “escape velocity”, whereby the economy will escape from the downturn like a 3-stage space rocket: • Government spending stops the downturn […]
The blog has argued for some time that the chemical industry is facing a “new normal” as growth returns to the economy. Now US Federal Reserve Governor Dan Tarullo has helpfully spelt out some important changes that he expects to occur. He notes that: • “Just about everyone understands we will never return to the […]
The blog is now preparing its annual Budget Outlook for 2010. Before this is published next weekend, it makes sense to assess the blog’s credibility by looking back at last year’s Outlook, to see how well it performed. Past performance may not be a perfect guide to future outcomes. But it is one of the […]
Coal miners used to take a canary with them, to help detect poisonous fumes. If the canary stopped singing, then they knew there was a problem. This led to the concept of “the canary in the coalmine acting as a warning of danger”. Small countries can play the same role in the global economy. Last […]
US unemployment has now reached 9.8%, and seems almost certain to reach 10% by year-end. In addition, 11 million people have either given up work, or have settled for part-time employment. Thus 26 million are now out of full-time work, 17% of the workforce. A rise to 10% would also mean, as Goldman Sachs note, […]
My first European Petrochemical Association (EPCA) meeting was in 1985. Since then, I have found that it provides an unique opportunity to look back over the current year, and focus on what might happen next. Thus in October 2007, just after I began writing the blog, my discussions led me to warn that we were […]
Sentiment is a very important influence in markets. When positive, as it has been since March, traders tend to ‘look through’ today’s problems to a brighter future. But at some point, reality needs to confirm this optimism. The IeC Boom/Gloom Index (blue column) aims to measure these changes in sentiment. It correctly forecast March’s turning […]
The probable ending of the destocking/restocking phase is a good moment to look back at what has happened to chemical industry volume in recent years. The chart, based on data kindly supplied by Kevin Swift of the ACC, shows how volume has moved, by Region, with Q1 2006 = 100: Global. Volume in Q2 this […]
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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.