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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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Financial players increase their bets on crude

Financial investors are already quite disruptive in crude oil markets. And their influence is set to grow this year. That’s the message from surveys by Barclays Global Investors and JP Morgan. $120bn is now invested in commodities as a class, with oil a major target. Even your own pension fund may be about to invest, […]

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China freezes energy costs, bans plastic bags

Reaction to $100 oil has been swift. Yesterday, the Chinese State Council decided to freeze the prices of oil products, natural gas and electricity, as well as public transportation. A measure of the government’s concern is that the meeting to approve the freeze was attended by premier Wen Jiabao. Chinese inflation is now at 6.9% […]

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Ford warns on auto sales

US autos are one of the major uses for chemicals. The ACC recently calculated that each auto contains $2441 worth of chemistry, with a wide range of companies supplying products such as antifreeze, sealants, coatings and plastics. In 2006, chemical sales to the industry were worth $32.6bn. A downturn in auto sales is therefore not […]

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Will lower interest rates help?

A reader has kindly sent me an interesting analysis from Richard Bernstein, Chief Investment Strategist at Merrill Lynch (ML)*. He argues that ‘the Fed can lower interest rates quite a lot, but they will likely have minimal impact on the economy unless credit creation grows’. Bernstein says their research indicates that US credit availability is […]

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SABIC – S&P follow Moody’s

S&P have quickly followed Moody’s in putting SABIC Innovative Plastics’ debt on creditwatch for a downgrade. As I commented with the Moody’s downgrade, this is not really to do with a newly discovered decline in the polycarbonate market. S&P have very competent chemical analysts, and must have been aware in August (when the original grade […]

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$100 crude – US manufacturing close to recession

Oil prices touched $100/bbl today, a new record in nominal and inflation-adjusted terms. At the same time, the US Institute of Supply Management (ISM) index signalled that the manufacturing sector ‘failed to grow in December’, with ‘industries close to the housing market struggling more than others’. All the ISM’s main indicators were negative, with inventories […]

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The renminbi rises

I noted in late November that China’s policy towards its currency might be changing. Now we have evidence of this change, with a rather spectacular 0.9% rise in its value versus the US$ last week. This was the largest weekly gain since it was de-pegged against the $ in July 2005. And it seemed to […]

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What next for the credit crunch?

For the chemical industry, much depends on whether the US economy goes into recession during 2008. The signs are not encouraging, with even former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan believing it is a 50:50 chance. So how would any recession impact the current credit crisis? Writing in the Financial Times their banking editor, Gillian Tett, provides […]

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