Current account deficits start to matter

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The US Fed’s decision to keep cutting interest rates is causing a major change in Asian investment behaviour. This will slow world economic growth quite significantly, and is bad news for chemical industry sales. It also means that the informal Bretton Woods II system of currency management has broken down.

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Shanghai stock market crashes

China is well worth watching at the moment. Quietly, away from the headlines, the Shanghai stock exchange has been collapsing. It is now down 44% since its October peak, and fell over 5% on Wednesday. This matters to the chemical industry for two reasons: • The immediate cause of Wednesday’s fall was news that Sinopec […]

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‘Too big to rescue’

Readers will know that I am a great admirer of Gillian Tett’s analyses of banking issues in the Financial Times. Today, she has another thought-provoking article, this time on the emergence of Iceland as ‘the world’s first country run like a hedge fund’. The article is worth reading in itself, but also for the question […]

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ExxonMobil regains top place

After 5 months, ExxonMobil is once again the world’s largest company by market capitalisation. PetroChina had overtaken it last November, but has since lost half its value in China’s stock market decline. Today, PC is worth $453bn, versus EM’s $455bn. China’s stock market has lost 25% so far this year. But PC has been particularly […]

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FT’s subprime jokes page

Those who liked my earlier posting about Margin calling, might like to look at the new online Financial Times page devoted to subprime jokes. For example, ‘What’s the definition of an optimistic investment banker?’ ‘Someone who irons 5 business shirts on a Sunday night.’ It also mentions the prospect of a new breakfast cereal being […]

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Oil price volatility rises

Volatility has been rising in the crude oil and feedstocks markets. This is because individual players have completely different strategies. In turn, this makes it difficult for chemical companies to forecast short-term feedstock costs. It also makes it difficult to maintain margins. Last Monday, crude reached a new high of $111/bbl. Then, as the scale […]

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US housing weakens again

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The above chart comes from Kevin Swift’s weekly report for the American Chemistry Council. Sadly, it paints a downbeat picture for the near-term outlook for the US chemical industry. It shows that US housing starts fell a further 0.6% in February, whilst building permits fell 7.8%. Housing starts are now down 28% versus a year […]

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A simple guide to the credit crisis

The New York Times has an excellent feature today that aims to explain how ‘US sub-prime mortgages could take out the whole global financial system’. I know that many readers found the Bird/Fortune video on the subject very useful last December. So I thought you might like to know about this new analysis. The Times […]

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Benzene prices hit a ceiling

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Benzene prices may be about to tell us something quite important about future profitability trends for the chemical industry. As the chart shows, benzene has hit a price ceiling at around $1200/t over the past 4 years in European markets. Yet crude has been climbing, from an average $38/bbl in 2004 to average $95/bbl so […]

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The US$ tumbles

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The US$ took a major tumble yesterday, as traders decided the Bear Stearns news meant there was little risk of central bank intervention. Against the Japanese yen it fell almost 2.5% during the day, closing at ¥97.35, as shown on the chart. It also fell 2% against the Swiss Franc to SwFr 0.98, and continues […]

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