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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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Will lower interest rates help?

A reader has kindly sent me an interesting analysis from Richard Bernstein, Chief Investment Strategist at Merrill Lynch (ML)*. He argues that ‘the Fed can lower interest rates quite a lot, but they will likely have minimal impact on the economy unless credit creation grows’. Bernstein says their research indicates that US credit availability is […]

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SABIC – S&P follow Moody’s

S&P have quickly followed Moody’s in putting SABIC Innovative Plastics’ debt on creditwatch for a downgrade. As I commented with the Moody’s downgrade, this is not really to do with a newly discovered decline in the polycarbonate market. S&P have very competent chemical analysts, and must have been aware in August (when the original grade […]

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$100 crude – US manufacturing close to recession

Oil prices touched $100/bbl today, a new record in nominal and inflation-adjusted terms. At the same time, the US Institute of Supply Management (ISM) index signalled that the manufacturing sector ‘failed to grow in December’, with ‘industries close to the housing market struggling more than others’. All the ISM’s main indicators were negative, with inventories […]

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The renminbi rises

I noted in late November that China’s policy towards its currency might be changing. Now we have evidence of this change, with a rather spectacular 0.9% rise in its value versus the US$ last week. This was the largest weekly gain since it was de-pegged against the $ in July 2005. And it seemed to […]

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What next for the credit crunch?

For the chemical industry, much depends on whether the US economy goes into recession during 2008. The signs are not encouraging, with even former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan believing it is a 50:50 chance. So how would any recession impact the current credit crisis? Writing in the Financial Times their banking editor, Gillian Tett, provides […]

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Moody’s seasonal ‘gift’ for SABIC

Its always interesting to see the news stories that are slipped out just before major public holidays, when media attention is likely to be low. Only ICIS news seemed to spot the announcement by Moody’s that they were placing SABIC Innovative Plastics (the former GE Plastics business) on watch for a potential ratings downgrade. Yet […]

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USA adds $746bn to support housing

Housing, as we know, is an absolutely key market for the chemical industry, both directly and indirectly. Directly, each new house accounts for $16k of chemical demand, whilst indirectly, years of rising western house prices has allowed consumers to cash out their gains to spend on Asian imports. Now this virtuous circle has turned with […]

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The yuan also rises

Bloomberg reports today that China’s yuan has now risen 12% against the US$, since the dollar peg was scrapped in July 2005. And the rise is accelerating, with the currency up 6% so far this year. Significantly, China’s Commerce Minister Chen Deming said that the yuan’s rise ‘fits China’s economic needs’. A strong exchange rate […]

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2008 economic outlook

Yesterday the European Central Bank opened its doors and lent €349bn to 390 banks seeking to shore up their reserves position for year-end. Will this help solve the credit crunch? Writing today in the Financial Times, their excellent banking editor (Gillian Tett) is doubtful. She worries that ‘the banks know something nasty that we don’t’, […]

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