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Geopolitics lead to Boom/Gloom Index tumble after record high

The IeC Boom/Gloom Index (blue column) proved its value again last month.  It shot to a new record high, and this was then followed by a record high for both the S&P 500 (red line) and the Dow Jones Industrials.  But now the Index has fallen sharply.  This highlights the major divergence between developments in the […]

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China’s polyester market flashes red warning signals

China’s polyester market seems to be trying to tell us something quite important about the real state of China’s economy, as the chart above shows for the main raw material, PTA (terephthalic acid): It focuses on the margin between PTA prices and naphtha feedstock (Singapore basis) Normally this is a premium between $200/t – $300/t as shows […]

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Caustic soda inventories rise as aluminium cutbacks begin

An accident waiting to happen is perhaps the best way to describe aluminium markets – the key swing outlet for caustic soda.  Caustic soda is normally a late cycle product, with sales then focused on the mining industry.  Industry leader Alcoa’s results confirm the disappointing trend.  It lost money in Q1, whilst revenue fell 8% due to a decline […]

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Half of all Asians still living below $2/day poverty line

The good news is that the world’s development agencies are waking up to the idea that income level is going to be key to future world growth.  They are also starting to recognise that the vast majority of people in the emerging economies are not ”middle-class” with near-Western standards of living. Thus a major new Study from the […]

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Free China outlook webinar on Wednesday

The blog’s recent Research Note on the likely impact of China’s economic reforms has attracted enormous interest. As a result, it will hold 2 free webinars on Wednesday to discuss the outlook in more detail. The webinars will be co-hosted with John Richardson, author of the Asian Chemical Connections blog – and co-author with the blog of Boom, […]

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China’s credit cuts will send seismic tremors around the world

Monday’s Interesting Quotes post highlighted how China’s leadership clearly recognise they have a massive debt problem, as detailed in the blog’s recent Research Note. Further evidence for this was provided by yesterday’s bank lending figures, which showed total lending down 19% versus March 2013 at Rmb2.07tn ($333bn), and the lowest increase in money supply since 2001. This makes […]

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US chemicals slip back into Contraction mode as cycle peaks

The above chart from the excellent American Chemistry Council (ACC) weekly report may look a bit baffling at first.  But it is worth attention, as it highlights the current state of the industry in real time: It shows US chemical shipments on the vertical axis, and change in inventory on the horizontal axis Both are shown […]

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China’s slowdown accelerates as IOUs substitute for credit

The end of Q1 seems a good moment to look back at the position of the benchmark markets in the IeC Downturn Monitor.  Compared to previous quarters, there has been surprisingly little movement: Benzene has remained the most volatile, with supply outages temporarily pushing up prices (green line) HDPE has trended higher, but these are […]

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Leaders need to “see around corners” in today’s VUCA world

The number “42″ was the answer to “the ultimate question of life” in the classic novel ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe’.  Yet as the supercomputer providing this answer then explained, it was a pointless exercise as nobody understood the meaning of the original question. The world’s policymakers are in the same position, although they don’t yet realise this.  They […]

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China’s struggle for a new economy

“To most outsiders the language of official declarations is mind-numbing. Yet, having listened to Premier Li Keqiang and vice-premier Zhang Gaoli, I found (their plans) at least analytically convincing. They clearly recognise the need for decisive action in response to the challenges faced. What they want to do also makes good sense both on economic […]

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