US housing continues to weaken as the financial crisis of the past 2 months takes its toll of prospective homebuyers. Yesterday’s Case-Shiller index of house prices showed a “broad-based decline” in September, posting record annual declines of 17%. Similarly, the above chart from the ACC’s weekly report shows new housing starts (red line) at a […]
President-elect Obama has become the latest world leader to “get it”, as his wife Michelle once remarked. For far long, politicians seemed to believe their platitudes about the “underlying strength” of their national economies. This meant their proposed remedies were reactive, and usually unworkable. More recently, the blog has also worried that the USA faced […]
The World Bank has cut its growth forecast for China’s GDP to just 7.5% next year. Only 3 months ago, it was expecting 9.2%. And the Bank warns that the economy is dependent on “higher public spending” for more than half its forecast growth next year. Chemical companies will also be alarmed by the Bank’s […]
The UK’s Finance Minister, Alistair Darling, was the first western leader to warn that the current recession was the worst in 60 years. He was also the first to effectively nationalise major banks, to stave off their collapse. Now he has become the first to try to tackle the real threat of deflation, by cutting […]
Last week’s BASF announcement marked the end of Phase One of the downturn. This began over a year ago, with the first signs of financial crisis. Now, we will move into Phase Two – a long, multi-year recession, which will probably include several bear-market rallies. The end of this “beginning” Phase is seeing a disastrous […]
My colleague Bob Townsend is well known to many in the chemical industry as an olefins expert. He has pointed out today’s most unusual situation in olefins. Normally, an unplanned outage by one or more crackers would cause major disruption. Yet today, 10 European crackers are down, for technical or other reasons, and many others […]
Regular readers of the blog will know that it believes price movements in benzene have great predictive power. This is due to the fact that benzene is one of the oldest of the major chemicals, and has the widest industrial usage. Thus in March, when benzene prices hit a “ceiling”, the blog noted this was […]
6 weeks ago, I warned that “the scariest moment of my 30 year chemical career” was about to be repeated. This had been in 1980, when “for some weeks it seemed that demand for many petchem products had simply stopped”. Three weeks later, the blog confirmed that “the moment it had long feared has now […]
An interesting note from PetroMatrix highlights the close linkage that has now developed between changes in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and WTI crude oil prices. The chart, showing market action on Thursday, makes the point very clearly. PetroMatrix’s analysis suggests that “the correlation across asset classes remains very strong and there is little diversification […]
Current market conditions are causing problems for everyone in the chemical industry. But as the blog has long feared, they are particularly testing those companies with higher debt levels. On Friday, Moody’s announced a downgrading of the Corporate Family Rating of Lyondell Basell Industries to B3 to B1, and said the outlook “remains negative”. Yesterday, […]
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Paul Hodges is Chairman of International eChem, trusted commercial advisers to the global chemical industry.
The aim of this blog is to share ideas about the influences that may shape the chemical industry over the next 12 – 18 months. It will try to look behind today’s headlines, to understand what may happen next in important issues such oil prices, economic growth and the environment. We may also have some fun, investigating a few of the more offbeat events that take place from time to time. Please do join me and share your thoughts.
Between us, we will hopefully develop useful insights into the key factors that will drive the industry's future performance.