US house Feb10.jpg

US housing starts 74% below 2006 peak

15% of Americans were either in foreclosure, or at least one payment overdue, according to the Q4 Mortgage Bankers Association survey. This is a record high, but the MBA sees some signs that the numbers may have peaked. It is concerned, however, over the rise in the number of long-term unemployed, now a record 40% […]

Continue Reading
C2 Feb10.png

Middle East, Chinese, petchem capacity starts to arrive

The blog spent a fruitful afternoon last week, going through ICIS news reports of cracker start-ups in the Middle East and China. The chart above is the fruit of its labours, which shows that 4.8MT of ethylene capacity started up last year in the ME, and 2.1MT in China. Whilst latest estimates suggest that another […]

Continue Reading
C4 Feb10.png

Butadiene supply tightens as cracker feeds lighten

One of the key conclusions in our 2008 Study, ‘Feedstocks for Profit’, was that butadiene had the potential to go very tight in a Global Downturn Scenario. And as the chart above shows, prices are now rising sharply in the 3 major Regions. The rationale for the lack of supply is that the gas-based crackers […]

Continue Reading
Wal-mart left.jpg

Wal-Mart’s US sales reduced by deflation

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer with $400bn sales, saw deflation in its core US market last quarter. Prices were down minus 1.6%, even more than the -1% forecast. The cause was lack of confidence amongst shoppers, many of whom are now living “paycheck to paycheck”. The major retailers have an excellent record as forecasters of […]

Continue Reading

Volt to use ethanol as well as electricity

The blog has been following the development of GM’s new all-electric car, the Chevrolet Volt, with interest, ever since Pedro Spohr of Galp in Portugal highlighted its potential to impact naphtha balances. Of course, it won’t do this on its own – but GM’s adoption of the technology makes it essential for other manufacturers to […]

Continue Reading
China lendFeb10.png

China’s lending causes central bank headache

No wonder alarm bells were ringing in China’s central bank last week. The above chart (from China Daily) shows how total lending rebounded to $204bn in January, only 14% below the 2009 level. Total lending doubled during 2009 to $1.4bn, an astonishing amount for a country with total GDP of $4.3trn. Of course, this enabled […]

Continue Reading
Euroautos Feb10.png

EU auto sales benefit from scrappage schemes

The European Union was the leading auto market in the world in 2009. It sold 14.4m, versus 13.6m in China and 10.4m in the USA. January has continued this promising trend, with volumes up 13% versus 2009. But it is likely to prove temporary, as government scrappage schemes end. This has already happened in the […]

Continue Reading
Closed sign.jpg

Capital controls could hit chemical companies

CFO’s have a lot to think about currently. Volatility is rising in currency and oil markets. Plus credit risks on previously safe ‘sovereign’ debt markets are also increasing. Today, for example, there are new concerns that investors in Dubai World’s $22bn debt may lose 40% of their investment. Equally, current problems in the eurozone over […]

Continue Reading
Polymer v GDP.png

Polyolefin demand follows GDP/capita

The blog was in Vienna this week for a World Refining Association conference on the Global Petrochemical outlook. It had the privilege of chairing a very distinguished panel of industry leaders in a discussion about managing through the downturn. One of the key inputs came from Anton de Vries, LyondellBasell SVP, who had earlier shown […]

Continue Reading
New Normal.jpg

‘Budgeting for a New Normal’ White Paper

The blog is delighted to learn from ICIS that thousands of copies of its new White Paper, ‘Budgeting for a New Normal’, have been downloaded in the first week of publication. Please click here if you would like to obtain a free copy.

Continue Reading