US regulators accuse Goldman Sachs of fraud

Every now and then, a single quotation summarises a complex situation. In August 2007, CitiGroup CEO, Chuck Prince, described their blindness to the financial crisis about to unfold. “We see a lot of people on the Street who are scared. We are not scared. We are not panicked. We are not rattled. Our team has […]

Continue Reading
Volcano Apr10.png

Iceland’s volcano shuts down European airspace

Many chemical industry executives will be grounded for at least the next 24 hours, as a major volcanic eruption in Iceland is shutting down airspace in most parts of NW Europe this afternoon. UK and Scandinavian airspace is totally closed as a result of the eruption, pictured above. The dust cloud contains minute particles of […]

Continue Reading
Energy v S&P Apr10.png

US natural gas prices tumble

The blog’s early career, as a petchems trader in Houston, taught it to look out for moments when prices in one market start to diverge from those of a related product. These can often provide advance warning that a trend change is underway. Thus it is fascinated by the above chart, from It shows […]

Continue Reading

Eurozone, IMF, offer €45bn aid package to Greece

After 3 months of agonising, it seems that a €45bn ($61bn) aid package will be offered to Greece. The Eurozone will offer €30bn, with a further €15bn coming from the IMF. Greece’s GDP fell 2% in 2009. Experts now forecast a 4% fall this year. The government plans higher taxes, lower spending, and a 10% […]

Continue Reading
Xi Jinping.jpg

China aims to boost domestic consumption

The dramatic rise of Asia’s economies, including China, has been based on an export-driven model. Their growth powered ahead as long as the West grew, and companies continued to outsource much of their basic manufacturing activity to lower-cost countries. In 2001, for example, China’s exports were just 20% of GDP. But by 2007, they had […]

Continue Reading
Debt Apr10.png

US consumers enter the ‘new normal’

The US consumer accounts for 16% of total global GDP, with a value of $10trn. By comparison, total Asian consumption is under $5trn. China’s consumption in 2008 was just $1.6trn, about equal to the UK. Changes in US consumer behaviour are therefore critical to global GDP, and hence to chemical demand. The chart above, from […]

Continue Reading
US oil stocksApr10.png

US oil stocks remain at multi-year highs

The chart above, from the insightful Petromatrix report, highlights the on-going divergence between the bullish sentiment driving prices, and the fundamental reality of crude oil markets. It totals US stocks of crude oil and the main products (gasoline, distillate and jet kero), by year. And it shows very clearly that stocks in 2010 (red line) […]

Continue Reading
S&P Mar10.png

US company earnings still 40% below 2007 peak

The US 2009/Q4 reporting season is now virtually complete. It provides a valuable snapshot of company health as the US recession ends: • Reported earnings (red line) for the S&P 500 have recovered to $51. This is partly due to loss-makers such as GM having dropped out of the index due to bankruptcy. But it […]

Continue Reading
Index Apr10.png

USA exits recession

The IeC Boom/Gloom Index (blue column) moved up sharply last month, as Western stock markets rallied further on news that the major economies were now officially exiting recession. Various definitions exist of recession, with most countries referencing 2 consecutive quarters of negative GDP. The USA measures recessions differently, but the head of the official Business […]

Continue Reading
Dalian Apr10.png

Asian PE margins under pressure as oil prices rise

China’s demand has been the main driver for the global chemical industry over the past year. And prices on China’s Dalian polymers futures exchange have been a key indicator of the boom. But now, the rally seems to be running out of steam. The key signs are in the above chart: • At the end […]

Continue Reading