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The end of ‘stretch targets’

There is little doubt that chemical growth is weakening. The above chart, taken from Kevin Swift’s excellent weekly report for the American Chemistry Council, indicates that a serious downturn is underway.

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Germany’s growth slows

Germany is the powerhouse economy of Europe. Its also a late-cycle economy, relying more on engineering and equipment sales than consumer spending. So until recently, its growth has seemingly not been affected by the global slowdown. But Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, indicated yesterday that a ‘significant fall’ was likely in economic growth next year. Industrial […]

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European auto sales fall 8%

Europe is the world’s largest auto manufacturer, accounting for 32% of the global market. So news that European auto sales fell 8.3% last month, compared to 2007, is worrying. Italy’s sales fell 20%, and were today described as ‘disastrous’ by CEO Sergio Marchionne, who announced that 4 of their 6 plants will shut for 3 […]

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Merrill cuts back on private jets

I suppose when an industry has lost $400bn in a year, some sacrifices have to be made. In May, I documented how Deutsche Bank was no longer approving expense claims for ‘adult entertainment’. Well, things have got worse since then, as the losses have continued to mount: • Goldman staff have to contribute to repair […]

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A ‘profound’ downturn

The current downturn is different from anything that has occurred in the last 15 years. Policy makers are clearly worried. The UK’s Finance Minister, Alistair Darling, told Bloomberg today that ‘the effect of what has happened is going to be far more profound than people predicted at the start of the year’. He added that […]

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Intel’s Grove calls for electric cars

A new debate about increasing US energy security, by reducing gasoline dependence, may be getting underway. Leading the move is Andy Grove, the man who made Intel into the leading global chip company. His key phrase, and the title for his 1996 book, was ‘Only the paranoid survive’. Now he is taking this approach into […]

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US, Iran to meet – crude drops $20/bbl

I suggested at the weekend that the Iran issue had the potential to move oil prices by $50/bbl either way. Since then, prices have fallen $20/bbl to $130/bbl, on news that the USA and Iran will meet tomorrow for the first time in nearly 30 years. If they reach agreement on the nuclear issue, oil […]

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Bank of England warns on inflation

Andrew Sentance of the Bank of England has issued a very clear analysis of current oil and commodity price movements. It rejects the view that these have been primarily caused by speculators. Instead, it points to increasing demand, and lack of supply, as the main causes of today’s higher prices. The slide above sums up […]

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US drivers cut back – a little

Yesterday’s US government data on gasoline consumption gives the clearest picture yet of what is happening to US demand. The data compares the 4 weeks covering the July 4 Independence Day weekend, with the same period last year. And it shows gasoline demand was down just 2.1%, even though oil prices have doubled since last […]

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US$5 trillion

Last September, I wrote to the Financial Times on the subject of the US sub-prime disaster. At a time when many banking commentators were trying to minimise the problems, I suggested that ‘a “buyer of last resort”, such as the Federal government, would probably need to emerge if this situation is to be stabilised’. Yesterday, […]

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