Wheat prices rose 25% yesterday, the biggest one-day rise ever, as Kazakhstan imposed restrictions on wheat exports. The rationale for today’s rising prices is three-fold: • US farmers have shifted land over to corn, to meet increased ethanol demand, and US wheat inventories are forecast to hit 60 year lows • Emerging countries are now […]
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BASF Chairman Jürgen Hambrecht sounded confident last week, following their annual results. 2007 sales were €58bn (up 10% on 2006), and income from operations was €7.3bn (up 8%). However, Q4 saw sales up just 1.6% at €14.7bn, and income actually down 3.4% at €1.6bn. The main culprit in Q4 was chemicals. Sales were marginally down […]
Quietly, oil has moved back to the $100/bbl level. This is quite different from January, when it first hit the magic $100/bbl number. Financial players had jumped on the trend from November as crude rose above $80/bbl, and then wanted to ‘get out at the top’. Their thinking was that a US recession would reduce […]
The UK government has today nationalised the country’s 8th largest bank, responsible for 18.9% of UK mortgage lending. You may remember that Northern Rock was an immediate victim of the US subprime crisis. Its funding model, based on securitisation, failed to work once lenders became more concerned about return of capital than return on capital. […]
Ratings agencies Moody’s and S&P started taking a heavy line with Sabic in December over the supposed decline in the business environment at Sabic Innovative Plastics (the former GE Plastics business). This caused me to speculate that they were preparing the ground for a more wide-ranging move. Today’s S&P report on private equity owned companies […]
The Bank of England’s quarterly survey of corporate credit conditions, published today, shows that companies are finding it harder to get credit, and that rates are rising. This is in spite of the massive liquidity injections made by the Bank over the past 6 months, and its 0.5% interest rate cut. The Bank says that […]
Its not normally a good sign when chemical industry bosses feel the need to cheerlead on the outlook for the economy. Dow’s CEO Andrew Liveris therefore caught my attention at Davos, when he told CNBC that talk of recession was ‘over-reaction’. Particularly when he then corrected himself, adding that what he had meant to say […]
The US Fed has dramatically cut interest rates by 1.25% recently. But as it eases, so US banks seem to be tightening their lending criteria for mortgages. Present standards are the tightest recorded Since 1990, the Fed has asked banks about their lending standards. The chart above (by Merrill Lynch) shows the results. From 1992-2006, […]
‘‘I despair at times at why the equity markets can’t see how serious the credit crunch is’, said one senior credit analyst at an investment bank. ‘They just trade off the day-to-day newsflow’. This interview from yesterday’s Financial Times reminds me of last July, when I noted how financial markets seemed to have become divorced […]
Chemical companies tend to trade on ‘open book’ terms with long-established customers. They are also supportive when those customers are facing problems in their end-markets. In a recession, these admirable qualities can become expensive. ICIS news reports tonight that the bankruptcy of Plastech Engineered Products in the US has led to debts of nearly $5m […]
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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.