One rule for banks, another for manufacturers

The excellent Gretchen Morgenson makes a good point in her New York Times column today. As she puts it, “here in Bailout Nation, you’ll be surprised to learn, some of us are more equal than others”. Her argument is that Congress is operating to double standards. Last week, it refused to support $14bn of lending […]

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Soros on leverage

George Soros is one of the most successful investors in recent decades. The blog came across today a report of Soros’ graphic description of the dangers of having too much debt in a business, or personally: “Leverage was like driving along a straight, clear freeway with a sharp spike pointing from the centre of the […]

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The Age of Austerity

The world’s major retailers, particularly Wal-Mart and Tesco, keep a very close finger on the global economic pulse. They spotted looming recession 18 months ago – long before it became more widely apparent this year. Yesterday, Wal-Mart’s UK head went further, referring to “the dawning of the age of austerity”. He added that “this won’t […]

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INEOS obtains covenant waivers

INEOS has now confirmed that it has obtained the required covenant waivers from its banks. They had little choice, as pushing INEOS into bankruptcy would have destroyed value on a massive scale for everyone concerned. But as the blog expected, lenders successfully demanded an increased interest charge in exchange for their consent. Investors’ attention will […]

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European auto industry shuts down

Several European chemical companies have been undertaking surveys of likely near-term demand from the auto sector, and have been kind enough to share their conclusions with the blog. The results are not encouraging. It appears that every European car producer has announced plans for an extended Christmas shutdown of at least 2 weeks, compared to […]

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China’s exports fall, imports collapse

China has just reported its first fall in exports for 7 years. These were still growing at 19.1% in October, but fell 2.2% in November. The suddenness of the downturn is also shown in the import figures, which were down 17.9% versus 2007. The numbers confirm the blog’s long-expressed fear that China, and the Asian […]

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Flawed thinking on financial risk

Having no risk management systems in place may be better than having the wrong systems in place. That seems to be one of the lessons from the recent financial meltdown. The reason for this apparent paradox is that awareness of risk makes people cautious. But if they wrongly believe that all risk has been removed, […]

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Insights from spell-check

A long-standing industry friend sent me an email overnight about ethylene derivative margins. Only after sending it, did he realise that spell-check had decided to change the word “derivative” to “debilitative”. But as he noted in a follow-up email, “amazing the insights of a spellchecker – I meant ‘derivative’ but maybe ‘debilitative’ is more of […]

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Dow cuts jobs, sets out future focus

Yesterday, Dow announced its new structure post the K-Dow JV and the planned acquisition of Rohm & Haas. This covered two main elements: • Implementation of November’s cost reduction announcement • Dow’s new organisation (the chart above) The cost reductions were severe, with a headline 11% of staff facing redundancy. 20 plants in “high-cost areas” […]

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Volatility rules

The end of a major trend is usually marked by a significant increase in volatility. This seems to be what is happening to the equity bull market that began back in 1982. It has weathered a number of storms over the years, as traders kept faith with the underlying trend. But this week’s Barrons, the […]

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