The US Federal Reserve is now bypassing the banking system, and dealing directly with major corporate borrowers. These have been cut off from many sources of credit, as banks hoarded their cash. The impact has been immediate, with 1500 transactions already done for a record $67bn – 10 times last week’s daily level. This should […]
US house prices continued their downward path in August, and “every region reported negative annual returns”, according to today’s new Case-Shiller index. Nationally, average prices were down 17%, with Phoenix and Las Vegas down over 30% since last August. The recent Panic in financial markets makes a quick recovery even more unlikely. US chemical companies […]
Two main factors weigh on oil markets. The first, as PetroMatrix note in their latest weekly report, is that speculative players in virtually all commodity markets are being forced to deleverage their positions, and so “the bottom will be dependent on the end of the firesale”. The other factor is the continuing fall in demand. […]
Benzene is an excellent indicator of the outlook for industrial production, and hence for general chemical demand. Thus tonight’s ICIS news report that prices for benzene and its naphtha feedstock, are close to parity (around $390/t), tells us just how dire market conditions have become. The blog believes this has only ever happened once before […]
Last week, the Financial Times tried to lighten the current mood of doom and gloom. It began a letters page discussion about the merits of humour as an antidote to panic. Many blog readers clearly enjoyed the recent posting ‘A new bank model’. They will therefore understand why the FT today carries the blog’s suggestion […]
There are welcome reports this morning that the US government is finally putting in place measure to help homeowners in danger of foreclosure. The FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corp) has developed guidelines that will “lower a loan’s interest rate, extend the life of the loan or defer payment on a portion of the principal”. The […]
Last week, the blog didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when Alan Greenspan told Congress that he was “in a state of shocked disbelief” to find that that his self-regulation policy for banks had failed. Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times was similarly surprised to discover the former Chairman of the US Federal […]
Sometimes markets move because of sentiment, sometimes because of fundamentals. Sometimes (luckily rarely), because of blind panic. The latter is what we are seeing at the moment. Investors suddenly feel they MUST sell – whether because they need the cash, have completely lost confidence, or because their family and friends are advising it. Whatever the […]
The blog first raised this issue last December, when noting that global chemical industry production growth had already “slowed significantly”. At that time, it questioned whether “central bankers will be able to wave the magic wand that restores us to a growth path”. And it warned “it is hard to imagine that the chemical industry […]
Readers will hopefully forgive the blog a moment of nostalgia. This weekend sees the closure of SABIC’s PX V plant in the UK, after producing c10 million tonnes of paraxylene. The blog’s first role as a product manager was in trading 250KT/year of xylene feedstock for PX V. In turn, this led to a memorable […]
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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.