Volatility has been rising in the crude oil and feedstocks markets. This is because individual players have completely different strategies. In turn, this makes it difficult for chemical companies to forecast short-term feedstock costs. It also makes it difficult to maintain margins. Last Monday, crude reached a new high of $111/bbl. Then, as the scale […]
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Benzene prices may be about to tell us something quite important about future profitability trends for the chemical industry. As the chart shows, benzene has hit a price ceiling at around $1200/t over the past 4 years in European markets. Yet crude has been climbing, from an average $38/bbl in 2004 to average $95/bbl so […]
The Financial Times this morning reports that the US Fed fears that ‘the economic downturn in the US could turn into a deep and protracted recession of the kind that plagued Japan’. Clearly based on interviews with senior Fed officials and other policymakers, the two articles (one for the European edition, and one for the […]
The US$ had now fallen through the ¥102 level, which has held since 1995, and went straight to the psychologically important ¥100 level. The dollar peaked 9 months ago at ¥124, and so it has now fallen 19%. This is dramatic by any standards. I forecast back in November that an ‘old-fashioned currency crisis’ could […]
China announced yesterday that inflation had soared again last month, reaching 8.7%, versus the government target of 4.8%. Part of the increase is clearly due to the effects of recent major storms. But with the US Fed likely to cut rates soon, China remains in a difficult position. If it increases interest rates, then the […]
Central bankers are slowly recognising that inflation is becoming a serious problem. But their responses differ. So chemical companies will find it harder to predict interest and exchange rate policies.
OPEC today decided to hold oil production at current levels, even though prices are at a level which clearly threaten economic growth. They even recognised this risk in their statement, ‘highlighting the economic slowdown in the USA, which together with the deepening credit crisis in financial markets, is increasing the downside risks for world economic […]
‘If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then its a duck’. This simple logic probably best sums up Warren Buffett’s position on the current state of the US economy. ‘By any commonsense definition’, said Buffett yesterday, ‘the US is in recession’. Buffett is the world’s leading investor. And key evidence from […]
Anthony Bolton of Fidelity has been the UK’s premier stock picker for 30 years. His learnings from his ‘worst disasters’ provide an insider’s perspective on how to spot a company that’s about to fail. He revealed his top 3 warning signs in the Financial Times this weekend:
‘ ‘A vicious circle now seems to be in place again, where a lower dollar inspires raw material prices to rally, which in turn increases worries about inflation’. This was how strategists at BNP Paribas summed up the US Fed Chairman’s two days of testimony to Congress last week. For the last 20 years, every […]
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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 as 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.