Petchem volumes slide in all 3 major regions

Satchell May11.pngVolume is a key driver for chemical company profits. High volume means operating rates increase, reducing unit costs. Companies also gain more pricing power.

But when volume is low, the reverse happens.

Thus the above chart from leading analyst Paul Satchell of Collins Stewart is telling an important story. It shows:

• Volumes were very strong from December, as buyers bought forward ahead of price increases
• But since mid-May, he is seeing “a sharp downturn” as buyers start to destock again down the value chain

Satchell says this trend is common across all 3 major consuming regions, and all 3 major petchem groupings:

• Asia is the weakest region, followed by Europe and the USA
• Aromatics are weakest, followed by olefins and polymers

Satchell concludes that “material weakness is volume has begun“, with the most likely cause being destocking. He adds that “there are real risks to actual volumes traded in the short-term“.

Satchell’s analysis supports the blog’s own belief that we are following the path of 1973/4, 1979/80, 1990/1 and 2007/8. As oil prices plateau, we first see buyers destock to a supposedly more ‘normal’ level of inventory. This will probably last over the summer period.

Then, from September, we may well find, much to our surprise of course, that higher oil prices have actually reduced demand – just as they have always done in the past.

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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