Stock markets may have rallied over the past month. But the International Monetary Fund (IMF) sees no cause for optimism. In March, it thought the economy would contract by 0.5% – 1.0%. Now, it is forecasting a contraction of -1.3% in 2009. The chart, from the Wall Street Journal, compares the current downturn to the […]
The blog’s chemical career began with selling raw materials to the paint industry during the recession of the early 1980′s. Since then, it has always regarded the decorative paint sector as an excellent real-time indicator of underlying economic conditions. Today’s results from Akzo, one of the global leaders, confirms the sector’s reputation. Akzo said decorative […]
The prospect of bankruptcy is finally sharpening the knife at GM. As the blog noted last month, inventories are at astronomical levels. 781000 vehicles were in stock at the end of February, and this figure had only dropped by 15000 vehicles during March to 765000 vehicles. This equates to around 6 months supply. Now the […]
Parts of Europe are now following the US lead and seeing deflation. Spain saw prices fell 0.1% last month, for the first time since records began in 1961. In the UK, the retail prices index fell 0.4%, to register the first decline since 1959. Prices have also fallen in Portugal, Ireland and Luxembourg Economists have […]
The blog was never convinced by US Treasury Secretary Paulson’s efforts to manage the financial crisis. Its view was that Paulson avoided the real issues, and focused instead on trying to boost market sentiment. Worryingly his successor, Tim Geithner, seems to have inherited the same mindset. 2 months ago, Geithner announced that 19 major US […]
The above chart is a real ‘labour of love’ by the American Chemistry Council. It represents their best statistical effort to model: • Change in inventories for the major thermoplastics • Change in underlying demand for them, down the value chain This is critically important for the chemical industry, as it shows what is really […]
The last 6 months have been traumatic for many parts of the chemical industry. The next 2 or 3 years may well continue to be very difficult. How should your company best position itself to survive? That is the key question I will discuss on Thursday 14 May in my Webinar, ‘A Checklist for Survival’. […]
As the blog had hoped, US housing starts have stabilised in recent weeks. As the chart from Wall Street Journal shows, single-family home starts in March remained at c360,000 for the 3rd month running. Equally, the National Association of Home Builders’ index improved slightly from 9 in March to 14 in April. But starts are […]
US consumer prices fell for the first time since 1955 last month. Deflation was more common before 1955, and in the 1929-33 period prices fell by c10% a year. The danger of deflation is that it changes the entire psychology of purchasing. With inflation, it is better to buy today, because the product/service will be […]
Downturns are difficult times. There is always the hope that markets might improve, and this can delay the implementation of tough decisions on plant closures. Nobody wants to shut down, and then see a competitor benefit from an improving market. But if markets do stay depressed, then precious cash is being wasted whilst plants operate […]
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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 as 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.