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China gains as world trade slows

Sometimes a picture is worth 1000 words. The chart above, from the New York Times, highlights the massive changes that are taking place in world trade flows. These are of critical importance to the chemical industry, one of the world’s most globalised businesses. • Firstly, the volume of world trade has fallen to 2006 levels, […]

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The concept of “escape velocity”

This being Budget Week in the blog, it seems appropriate to look at the views of Larry Summers, US economics chief, to understand his expectations for an economic recovery. His main concept is of “escape velocity”, whereby the economy will escape from the downturn like a 3-stage space rocket: • Government spending stops the downturn […]

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“New normal” means major change – US Fed

The blog has argued for some time that the chemical industry is facing a “new normal” as growth returns to the economy. Now US Federal Reserve Governor Dan Tarullo has helpfully spelt out some important changes that he expects to occur. He notes that: • “Just about everyone understands we will never return to the […]

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2010 Budgets

The blog is now preparing its annual Budget Outlook for 2010. Before this is published next weekend, it makes sense to assess the blog’s credibility by looking back at last year’s Outlook, to see how well it performed. Past performance may not be a perfect guide to future outcomes. But it is one of the […]

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The Latvian canary

Coal miners used to take a canary with them, to help detect poisonous fumes. If the canary stopped singing, then they knew there was a problem. This led to the concept of “the canary in the coalmine acting as a warning of danger”. Small countries can play the same role in the global economy. Last […]

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US unemployment 9.8%, 26 million seeking work

US unemployment has now reached 9.8%, and seems almost certain to reach 10% by year-end. In addition, 11 million people have either given up work, or have settled for part-time employment. Thus 26 million are now out of full-time work, 17% of the workforce. A rise to 10% would also mean, as Goldman Sachs note, […]

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Petchems prepares for a new reality

My first European Petrochemical Association (EPCA) meeting was in 1985. Since then, I have found that it provides an unique opportunity to look back over the current year, and focus on what might happen next. Thus in October 2007, just after I began writing the blog, my discussions led me to warn that we were […]

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Green shoots disappear as new reality dawns

Sentiment is a very important influence in markets. When positive, as it has been since March, traders tend to ‘look through’ today’s problems to a brighter future. But at some point, reality needs to confirm this optimism. The IeC Boom/Gloom Index (blue column) aims to measure these changes in sentiment. It correctly forecast March’s turning […]

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Global chemicals volume back to 2006 level

The probable ending of the destocking/restocking phase is a good moment to look back at what has happened to chemical industry volume in recent years. The chart, based on data kindly supplied by Kevin Swift of the ACC, shows how volume has moved, by Region, with Q1 2006 = 100: Global. Volume in Q2 this […]

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Recovery to be “weak by historical standards” – IMF

The good news is that the IMF thinks that the economy may have stopped getting worse. The bad news is that it thinks it may be a long time before we get back to earlier levels of demand. The main problem is the ongoing weakness of the banking system. The IMF has maintained its April […]

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