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Winter storms batter China’s economy

On my regular trip to Asia, the major news is the snowstorms battering China. These started on 10 January, and are expected to continue for at least another week. The transportation system seems to have ground to a standstill in many areas as a result. and so essential coal and food supplies are not reaching […]

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IMF identifies ‘serious slowdown’

The credit crunch and associated debt crisis has elicited an unprecedented response from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Today, the head of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kohn, told the Financial Times that the new IMF economic forecasts would ‘show a serious economic slowdown that needs a serious response’. Just last autumn, the IMF was calling for […]

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China’s olefin imports surge as government subsidises gasoline/diesel demand

China’s ethylene and propylene imports have surged in recent months, as the country has diverted naphtha to supply gasoline and diesel needs. ICIS news, reporting official China Customs figures, says 2007 ethylene imports were over 400% higher at 510KT, versus just 117KT in 2006. Ethylene exports also more than halved to 50KT in 2007, from […]

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CEO confidence falls

CEOs seem to be following CFOs in worrying about the impact of the credit crunch and debt crisis. The annual CEO survey by PwC of 1150 executives shows that fears of a downturn now top their list of concerns. US CEOs are much less confident than a year ago, with only 35% now ‘very confident’ […]

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Polymer margins retreat

The new ICIS Weekly Margin report on polyethylene is a goldmine for those who want to track the fortunes of the petchem industry. The recent issue contains good news and bad news for producers: • The good news is that PE margins have improved during January for integrated producers as a result of lower feedstock […]

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Selling the rallies

Stock markets are usually good indicators of future economic conditions. Their savage downturn since the start of the year suggests that investors now feel a growth slowdown is almost inevitable. Barrons (the major US investment paper) today highlights another very worrying development. It notes that ‘selling rallies aggressively is (now) more fruitful than buying every […]

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2008 crude outlook

I had the opportunity last night to learn current thinking within the oil industry on the current outlook for oil markets, by attending the annual lecture of the British Institute of Energy Economists, kindly hosted by BP. A year ago, at the same event, the crude price was $51/bbl. Last night, the headlines were ‘major […]

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Forecasting crude oil prices

I have often wondered how the major investment banks arrive at their forecasts for long-term crude prices. Last night I found out how it is done at the biggest player, Barclays Capital. Dr Paul Horsnell, Head of Commodities Research, said that when he started in the role in 2003, he began by keeping close to […]

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Wal-Mart, Tesco see slowing markets

Reports from leading retailers such as Wal-Mart and Tesco provide the best real-time insight into what is really happening in the wider economy. It is clear from both companies’ recent results that US and some other western consumer markets are slowing very quickly. This has critical implications for chemical companies. In the US, Wal-Mart see […]

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Growth slowdown underway

The OECD produces useful leading indicators each month, which try to capture turning points in the global economy. Its industrial production indicator is very relevant to chemicals, as 85% of demand comes from this sector. The latest outlook is summarised in Kevin Swift’s ACC report. The blue line is actual global industrial production, whilst the […]

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