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Global economy to shrink in 2009

The world’s major financial institutions become more pessimistic each time they report on the economic outlook. 6 weeks ago, the blog noted that the IMF expected “the global economy to come to a virtual standstill in 2009″. Today, the World Bank is forecasting that “the global economy is likely to shrink this year for the […]

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Cracker margins remain under pressure

The chart above, from Paul Ray’s excellent ‘ICIS Weekly Margin Report’, clearly shows the level of pain currently being suffered by naphtha-based cracker operators. Based on European pricing, it also demonstrates the great difference between today’s recession versus the ‘dip’ of 2002/3: • Margins based on contract prices fell to €151/t in January • They […]

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Propylene/Ethylene ratio drops

Propylene prices have been relatively strong in recent years, compared to ethylene. As the chart shows, they averaged 90% of the ethylene price between 2003-8. Now, however, they have returned to the historical 70% – 85% range. Propylene’s recent strength was well founded: • Benzene prices rose in 2004, making PP more attractive versus PS […]

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Stock markets continue to weaken

The chart above represents a sad story, with all major stock markets now down at least 48% since their peaks in 2007/8. When the blog last reviewed performance in September, Shanghai had been the worst performer, down 69% from its October 2007 peak. Since then, it seems to have stabilised, with the market down 64% […]

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Auto suppliers face difficult time as bankruptcies rise

The decline in auto sales is now threatening many industry suppliers around the world: • Today, the main Japanese car parts group has warned that “Toyota’s production cuts will cause bankruptcies among suppliers if the government restricts aid to large manufacturers”. • Last month, the main US associations requested $18.5bn in support from the Obama […]

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US auto sales remain depressed

February brought no relief for the troubled US auto industry, so critical to chemical sales. Sales were down 41% versus 2008. Even more worryingly, sales over the past quarter, and last 6 months, averaged under 10 million/year. Chrysler’s results also show the severe cost of gaining market share. It gained 1.4% in the retail market, […]

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Credit crunch jokes – an update

Q. How do you know your bank is in trouble? A. When its share price is less than the cost of taking money out of one of its ATMs. The blog is indebted to Thomas Friedman for this gem. Thanks also to a blog reader for these 2 jokes from the Jay Leno show: ‘The […]

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Another US Treasury Secretary speaks out

James Baker was Treasury Secretary to President Reagan. When he says that the US is “repeating Japan’s mistake by viewing our banking crisis as one of liquidity and not solvency”, the blog listens. His prescription is stark: “we should divide the banks into 3 groups – the healthy, the hopeless and the needy”. And he […]

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BASF – the German oil and gas company

BASF’s reported results for 2008 show that its profits are increasingly coming from the oil and gas sector. Geographically, it is becoming similarly dependent on its German operations. Agricultural and performance products put in a strong performance during the year, with their combined EBIT rising €300m to €1.5bn. But the chemicals, plastics and functional businesses, […]

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US home sales keep falling

Kevin Swift at the American Chemistry Council issued a new 2009 Outlook this week. His analysis suggests that we will see a V-shaped recession, as the “massive stimulus being injected into the US and other world economies will foster demand and a virtuous cycle of recovery will engage”. His optimism is very welcome, given the […]

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