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Polymer margins retreat

The new ICIS Weekly Margin report on polyethylene is a goldmine for those who want to track the fortunes of the petchem industry. The recent issue contains good news and bad news for producers: • The good news is that PE margins have improved during January for integrated producers as a result of lower feedstock […]

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Selling the rallies

Stock markets are usually good indicators of future economic conditions. Their savage downturn since the start of the year suggests that investors now feel a growth slowdown is almost inevitable. Barrons (the major US investment paper) today highlights another very worrying development. It notes that ‘selling rallies aggressively is (now) more fruitful than buying every […]

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2008 crude outlook

I had the opportunity last night to learn current thinking within the oil industry on the current outlook for oil markets, by attending the annual lecture of the British Institute of Energy Economists, kindly hosted by BP. A year ago, at the same event, the crude price was $51/bbl. Last night, the headlines were ‘major […]

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Forecasting crude oil prices

I have often wondered how the major investment banks arrive at their forecasts for long-term crude prices. Last night I found out how it is done at the biggest player, Barclays Capital. Dr Paul Horsnell, Head of Commodities Research, said that when he started in the role in 2003, he began by keeping close to […]

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The zeitgeist changes

The German word ‘Zeitgeist’ describes ‘the ethos or mood’ of a select group of people. And the financial zeitgeist is clearly changing. Back in August, I marvelled at the contradictory views then being expressed: ‘We see a lot of people on the Street who are scared. We are not scared. We are not panicked. We […]

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Wal-Mart, Tesco see slowing markets

Reports from leading retailers such as Wal-Mart and Tesco provide the best real-time insight into what is really happening in the wider economy. It is clear from both companies’ recent results that US and some other western consumer markets are slowing very quickly. This has critical implications for chemical companies. In the US, Wal-Mart see […]

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Growth slowdown underway

The OECD produces useful leading indicators each month, which try to capture turning points in the global economy. Its industrial production indicator is very relevant to chemicals, as 85% of demand comes from this sector. The latest outlook is summarised in Kevin Swift’s ACC report. The blue line is actual global industrial production, whilst the […]

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Financial players increase their bets on crude

Financial investors are already quite disruptive in crude oil markets. And their influence is set to grow this year. That’s the message from surveys by Barclays Global Investors and JP Morgan. $120bn is now invested in commodities as a class, with oil a major target. Even your own pension fund may be about to invest, […]

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China freezes energy costs, bans plastic bags

Reaction to $100 oil has been swift. Yesterday, the Chinese State Council decided to freeze the prices of oil products, natural gas and electricity, as well as public transportation. A measure of the government’s concern is that the meeting to approve the freeze was attended by premier Wen Jiabao. Chinese inflation is now at 6.9% […]

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Ford warns on auto sales

US autos are one of the major uses for chemicals. The ACC recently calculated that each auto contains $2441 worth of chemistry, with a wide range of companies supplying products such as antifreeze, sealants, coatings and plastics. In 2006, chemical sales to the industry were worth $32.6bn. A downturn in auto sales is therefore not […]

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