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US housing starts rise 3.6%

The blog is rather pleased with the performance of its new Boom/Gloom Index©, as financial markets continue to respond positively to any suggestion of “good news”. The Index is based on Ben Graham’s famous concept that markets are: • A voting machine in the short-term but • A weighing machine in the long-term It is […]

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Swedish bank takes over Top 50 European automotive supplier from private equity

In 2007, Sweden was the largest private equity market in Europe, as a percentage of the country’s GDP. And the local banks lent freely, as elsewhere, to fund investments. Now they, and other Nordic banks, are struggling to minimise their losses. According to Bloomberg, Sweden’s second-biggest bank, Handelsbanken, “seized parts of Plastal Group and Plastal […]

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European auto sales increase versus 2008

Any improvement in the troubled auto sector is extremely good news for the chemical industry, after the battering of the past few months. Thus the blog welcomes news, as the chart shows, that European sales increased 2.4% in June, the first rise for over a year. Government support for scrapping older cars has led the […]

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California hands out IOUs instead of cash

Source: Wall Street Journal Everybody’s favourite Christmas film is ‘Its a Wonderful Life’, in which the hero rescues a failing US bank during the Depression. But until today, the blog had never realised that a major role model for the plot-line came from Chicago in 1932. Nouriel Roubini’s blog notes that the city saw the […]

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China’s petchem imports soar on oil price speculation

After yesterday’s post, Edwin Pang of Credit Suisse in Hong Kong has raised an interesting question over the likely rationale for China’s massive increase in petchem imports, such as polyethylene (PE), in 2009. As the chart shows, its monthly PE demand (production plus net imports), was very steady in 2007-8. It averaged 980kt in 2007, […]

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Global downsizing needed to rebalance supply and demand

The chemical industry has benefited from a benign paradigm over the past 25 years: • Demographics in the west have encouraged consumption, as the baby-boom generation reached middle age • Globalisation meant this could be achieved at lower cost, by outsourcing production to lower-wage countries in the east • Workers in the east saved their […]

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IEA warns on economic downturn, lower oil demand

Crude oil markets have risen 60% in recent months, as traders speculate on a quick V-shaped economic recovery. But there are growing signs that reality, in the shape of evidence of falling US and global oil demand, may be about to reassert itself. Latest US statistics remain very negative: • Total oil product demand is […]

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US demand bouncing along the bottom

The good news from the latest reports on US house prices and auto sales was simple – things have stopped getting worse. US house prices saw “some stabilisation in some regions” according to the S&P/Case Shiller Index for April. Whilst auto sales are clearly bouncing along the bottom, down “only” 29% in June versus May’s […]

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Dow aligns US ethylene balances

Capacity closures are always hard to achieve in the petchem industry: • First, these are a ‘zero sum game’ – if I shut my plant, then other producers gain in terms of overall operating rates and margins, at my expense • Secondly, there is the integration issue. Closing a consuming plant also impacts output from […]

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Germany, China, struggle as exports slump

Germany and China have benefited massively from the growth in world trade since 1980. As the Wall Street Journal chart shows, 47% of Germany’s GDP comes from exports. And China has a 37% dependence. US exports are just 13% of GDP, so it is more self-sufficient. Both countries have punched above their weight in terms […]

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