Chemical production stabilises as destocking ends

Prod jul09.jpg

The excellent weekly report from the American Chemistry Council (ACC) has a number of interesting insights:

• As the chart shows, global chemical production seems to have bottomed. All regions are, however, now showing a decline versus 2008.
• Separately, the ACC has updated its valuable survey of the state of inventories down the US polymer chain. This suggests that these were finally being rebuilt in May and June, for the first time in a year.
• Equally, they note that total inventory of existing US homes reduced to 9.4 months, with sales stable at similar levels to June 2008.

The latter is a critical leading indicator for chemical sales. But according to the US Realtors Association, the housing market is now seeing 2 quite different sets of drivers:

• Homes priced under $250k are selling fast, often via foreclosure, and inventories are down to 6 months
• But homes priced over $1m are seeing very little activity, with inventories now at 20 months.

The question, of course, is what happens next? The risk is that rising unemployment starts to force owners of more expensive homes to sell on a distressed basis. This would clear inventories, but would also cause further problems for the financial system, as lenders would then have to go through another round of debt write-offs.

Hopefully, these owners will be able to hang on. But even then, the chances of a V-shaped recovery remain low. As the ACC note, it is likely that “headwinds from massive deleveraging and lingering fallout from housing will offset the typical inventory bounce”.

About Paul Hodges

Paul Hodges is Chairman of International eChem, trusted commercial advisers to the global chemical industry. He also serves as a Global Expert for the World Economic Forum. The aim of this blog is to share ideas about the influences that may shape the chemical industry and the global economy over the next 12 – 18 months. It looks behind today’s headlines, to understand what may happen next in critical areas such as oil prices, China and Emerging Markets, currencies, autos, housing, economic growth and the environment. 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.

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