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Difficult times call for tough decisions

Downturns are difficult times. There is always the hope that markets might improve, and this can delay the implementation of tough decisions on plant closures. Nobody wants to shut down, and then see a competitor benefit from an improving market. But if markets do stay depressed, then precious cash is being wasted whilst plants operate […]

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Restocking begins but the downturn continues

CLICK HERE FOR PDF VERSION Recently the blog has identified a number of signs that US housing and auto markets are stabilising, at least temporarily. This should feed through into chemical demand during Q2, and enable production volumes to show some improvement. What happens next? In order to answer this critical question, we have to […]

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Credit crisis losses head for $4 trillion

To misquote the famous HL Mencken phrase, “nobody ever went broke under-estimating the losses caused by the credit crisis”. Initially, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke estimated the losses at just $100bn. Then, a year ago, the IMF said its estimate was $1 trillion. Now, the IMF is raising its estimate even higher, this time to $4 […]

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Benzene price surge indicates end to destocking

Benzene is the blog’s favourite leading indicator of chemical industry demand. It is one of the most widely used products and, as a liquid, it is also widely traded. Its recent successes as an indicator include calling a peak on industry profitability, when its prices peaked a year ago. And then it provided early confirmation […]

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Credit crunch hits US baseball, UK Premier League

Tom Hicks was a major player in private equity, but then moved on to sports investment via his Hicks Sports Group (HSG). He owns the US Texas Rangers baseball and Dallas Stars ice hockey franchises, as well as a 50% stake in the UK Premier League’s Liverpool FC. Now The Guardian reports that HSG has […]

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FT’s Gillian Tett named ‘Journalist of the Year’

The blog is delighted that the Financial Times’ Gillian Tett has been named Journalist of the Year, in the annual UK awards. She was the first journalist to call attention to the dangers developing in financial markets, and has been an invaluable source of information. Two postings, from March 2008 and December 2007, illustrate her […]

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G-20 moves on regulation, ducks other key issues

The blog has been reading the G-20 communiqué, and various news reports, to understand whether the London summit answered the 5 key questions it raised in advance of the meeting. Reuters provides a good summary of the outcome in terms of 3 blog questions: • Global trade. “The Summit ‘reaffirmed’ commitment from previous summit last […]

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US auto sales start to bottom

The blog may be over-optimistic, but as with US house markets, it is hopeful that US auto market may have hit at least a temporary bottom. Spring should be a good period for sales, and March saw auto volumes down 37% versus 2008. This was a relatively good performance after February’s 41% decline, but still […]

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Dow’s Morton sale shows it can still negotiate

The blog still finds it hard to adjust to Dow Chemical’s current financial status, following the K-Dow/Rohm & Haas episode. But facts speak for themselves. Earlier this week, S&P lowered Dow’s debt rating to just above junk grade, on completion of the R&H deal. However, news that Dow has sold R&H’s Morton Salt to Germany’s […]

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G-20 prepares for London meeting

Leaders of the G-20 represent 85% of the global economy, and 65% of world population. Set up by Finance Ministers after the Asian crisis in 1997/8, they first met at Heads of Government level in the USA last November. Sadly, although their communiqué was filled with earnest promises, few of these have since been enacted. […]

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