Human beings go through a number of stages when confronted by major change. As first described by Elisabeth Kübler Ross, the process starts with: • Denial that any change is taking place • Then anger at the implications of the change • Bargaining to reduce its magnitude • Depression as reality begins to be confronted […]
Its not just the World Bank that is concerned about the outlook for East Asia. Today, Moody’s (the ratings agency) says it has a negative outlook for the petrochemical sector over the next 12-18 months. It concludes: • “In response to weakening global demand, Asia Pacific’s petrochemical companies are rapidly shedding inventory and delaying their […]
The G20 represents over 85% of the world’s economy. And there is certainly no shortage of major issues for government leaders to discuss when the G20 meets next month in London. But the blog is not over-hopeful about their ability to make things happen. In November, the G20 promised “concrete policy outcomes” from its meetings. […]
OPEC Oil Ministers, meeting today, have achieved 80% compliance with their announced production quotas. This is much higher than normal, and owes a lot to the hard-ball tactics played by Saudi Arabia, the world’s leading oil producer, in initially allowing prices to slip to a $32/bbl low. The blog forecast in January that OPEC would […]
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 […]
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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.