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US banks tighten as the Fed eases

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, […]

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Wal-Mart sales ‘below expectations’

‘‘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 […]

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Dow, Basell, BASF, SABIC owed $5m in Plastech bankruptcy

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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US housing, China storms hit chemical demand

Andrew Liveris, Dow’s CEO, commented today that Dow now have ‘a total clampdown on costs and capital expenditure’. Whilst other CEO’s told the Financial Times that ‘rising oil prices, sagging consumer confidence and the on-going credit crunch’ are causing them to put in place ‘contingency plans to protect against the expected economic downturn’. Separately, Bill […]

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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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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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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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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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$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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