Last month, in discussing the ‘Cycle of Deflation’, the blog worried that “the risk is that we now see a round of competitive devaluations, as other countries also try to support their exports, and reduce import penetration”. On Thursday, the Swiss National Bank announced that the Swiss franc’s strength was “inappropriate” and said it would […]
The UK’s most senior civil servant, Sir Gus O’Donnell said yesterday that the UK government was struggling to organise next month’s G-20 meeting because of the “absolute madness” of the US system, whereby “a new administration had to hire new officials from scratch, leaving a decision-making vacuum”. O’Donnell added that “there is nobody there. You […]
The blog has always had enormous respect for Dow. This was due to their ability to manage unconventional risks, in a way that other chemical companies (such as the blog’s former employer, ICI), found impossible. Even when things went wrong, they always had a Plan B, which allowed them to exit on a sensible basis. […]
The world’s major financial institutions become more pessimistic each time they report on the economic outlook. 6 weeks ago, the blog noted that the IMF expected “the global economy to come to a virtual standstill in 2009″. Today, the World Bank is forecasting that “the global economy is likely to shrink this year for the […]
The chart above, from Paul Ray’s excellent ‘ICIS Weekly Margin Report’, clearly shows the level of pain currently being suffered by naphtha-based cracker operators. Based on European pricing, it also demonstrates the great difference between today’s recession versus the ‘dip’ of 2002/3: • Margins based on contract prices fell to €151/t in January • They […]
Propylene prices have been relatively strong in recent years, compared to ethylene. As the chart shows, they averaged 90% of the ethylene price between 2003-8. Now, however, they have returned to the historical 70% – 85% range. Propylene’s recent strength was well founded: • Benzene prices rose in 2004, making PP more attractive versus PS […]
The chart above represents a sad story, with all major stock markets now down at least 48% since their peaks in 2007/8. When the blog last reviewed performance in September, Shanghai had been the worst performer, down 69% from its October 2007 peak. Since then, it seems to have stabilised, with the market down 64% […]
The decline in auto sales is now threatening many industry suppliers around the world: • Today, the main Japanese car parts group has warned that “Toyota’s production cuts will cause bankruptcies among suppliers if the government restricts aid to large manufacturers”. • Last month, the main US associations requested $18.5bn in support from the Obama […]
February brought no relief for the troubled US auto industry, so critical to chemical sales. Sales were down 41% versus 2008. Even more worryingly, sales over the past quarter, and last 6 months, averaged under 10 million/year. Chrysler’s results also show the severe cost of gaining market share. It gained 1.4% in the retail market, […]
Q. How do you know your bank is in trouble? A. When its share price is less than the cost of taking money out of one of its ATMs. The blog is indebted to Thomas Friedman for this gem. Thanks also to a blog reader for these 2 jokes from the Jay Leno show: ‘The […]
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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.