China’s exports continue to disappoint. They fell 18% in January and 26% in February. March showed a slightly better performance, with a 17% fall. But April was weak again, with a 23% decline in exports and imports. China’s problem today is based on its past success in becoming the manufacturing capital of the world. Exports […]
The Chinese government continues to express firm faith in its economy’s ability to withstand the global economic crisis. And certainly its recent imports of chemicals and polymers have been a lifeline for many companies outside the country. But now Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, has reinforced the blog’s concerns about the economy. Wal-Mart reports that […]
In July 2007, the US Federal Reserve warned that “credit concerns were spreading” and estimated that total bank losses due to US sub-prime loans could reach $100bn. Yet now, after the conclusion of its “stress tests”, the Fed says total bank losses could reach $600bn. In most companies, a 6-fold change in a key financial […]
The European Commission has again reduced its growth forecast for the EU. It now sees a 4% decline in GDP this year, and for the first time is suggesting that recovery will be delayed until mid-2010. As a result, it expects unemployment to reach 11%, which will further slow consumer spending. ‘Across the pond’, banks […]
The combination of consumer environmentalism with retailer cost-cutting is having the expected major impact on the UK’s use of plastic bags. All the big supermarkets have been running campaigns to reduce the use of these. Some, like Marks & Spencer, now charge 5p a bag. Others, such as Sainsbury’s, send texts to remind customers to […]
The International eChem team are very experienced in turnarounds and restructurings. We have undertaken these both as employees within our former companies, and then as advisers. This has taught us to be alert for the ‘tipping point’, when a situation begins to change, for better or worse. The blog believes the Chrysler bankruptcy is one […]
Chrysler. Yesterday, Chrysler entered bankruptcy. It will idle most of its US plants during the court proceedings. The government hopes the bankruptcy can be finalised in a “quick visit” of just 30-60 days. But even if this can be achieved, there is little doubt that Chrysler’s suppliers will suffer major write-offs. Bank ‘stress tests’. Widespread […]
BASF, the world’s largest chemical company, said today that they see “weak demand for chemical products” continuing through 2009. In response, plants and sites “will be closed or sold where necessary”. These are clear statements about the outlook, backed up by commitments to take action. Yet volumes and prices in financial markets are rising, as […]
Today saw further anecdotal evidence of speculative crude oil buying. A senior manager at the Port of Rotterdam told Bloomberg that oil inventories were the highest he had seen since he began work there in 1985. Rotterdam can hold 75 million barrels. Whilst there are also reports of tankers at anchor along the UK’s southern […]
Japan and Germany are the great exporting countries of the industrialised world. They didn’t have the consumer booms seen in the USA and UK. Yet their economies are plunging, as export opportunities dry up. Yesterday, the Japanese finance minister, Kaoru Yosano, told parliament that the country was in “an economic crisis”. These are strong words, […]
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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.