Archive | April, 2012


Few signs of optimism in today’s petchem markets

The above chart reflects the weekly changes in the 4 benchmark petchem products that launched the IeC Downturn Alert exactly a year ago. PTA (red line) was the only product to ever rise above its price on 29 April 2011 – and then only by $10/t, and for just 1 week. The original aim was […]

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US home prices slip as foreclosures increase

Since 2007, every spring sees a rush of forecasters to claim that – finally – the US housing market has hit bottom. Sadly, for those trapped in foreclosure, and for those in the chemical industry who depend on housing sales, there is little real evidence today for such optimism. Housing also provides a good example […]

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EU faces US competition in PVC export markets

The blog continues this week’s special series on chloralkali and PVC markets by looking at EU developments on PVC. Historically the EU has had strong export positions into markets such as Turkey and Russia, which lack major local production. More recently, as in the USA, strong export demand for caustic soda and weak domestic demand […]

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Shale gas supports US PVC exports

Yesterday the blog discussed caustic soda, and the recent importance of China’s metal demand. Today it focuses on chlorine and PVC. PVC is the largest end-use for chlorine. It is also critical for chloralkali producers when caustic demand is strong, as recently. Chlorine itself cannot be safely stored in large volumes, and so instead they […]

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China’s downturn slows caustic soda markets

As promised yesterday, the blog is running a special series of posts this week focused on chloralkali and PVC markets. Caustic soda is a key indicator for the global economy. This is because it is used in a wide variety of basic industries, including mining, pulp and paper, detergents and water treatment. The USA is […]

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Downturn Monitor approaches its anniversary

It is almost a year since the blog launched its IeC Downturn Monitor. The aim was to try and avoid the problems seen in H2 2008, when operating rates remained high down the value chain whilst demand fell. The above chart shows the weekly changes in its 4 benchmark products from 1 January, with movements […]

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Eurozone sees €789bn capital flight to the North

The blog’s many friends in the petchem industry in S Europe have become more frequent visitors to London in recent months. Often, they are in the process of buying flats or houses. As one long-standing friend commented, “would you want to leave your money in Spain today?” They are not alone. A detailed analysis by […]

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US job vacancy rates worse than in 1970s and 1980s

The above slide appears to be a series of random lines, at first glance. But it comes from an important speech from the vice chair of the US Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, on US unemployment patterns. It describes the so-called Beveridge Curve, which highlights the relationship between unemployment (horizontal axis) and the job vacancy rate […]

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US, China, EU auto sales up just 1% in Q1

Autos are the largest single market for chemical and polymer sales. And the USA, China and EU are the 3 largest markets, accounting for 2/3rds of global sales last year. Disappointingly, as the above chart shows, their sales were up just 1% overall in Q1 versus 2011 at 10.6m. Even this gain was only due […]

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China lending jumps to hit $380bn Q1 target

China’s leaders have a lot to worry about. The purge of Bo Xilai has now been followed by news of his wife being suspected of murder. This makes the run-up to October’s leadership transition even more difficult. Only 3 months ago, Bo was being tipped by some to join the Politburo, and even to become […]

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