The hurricane touches down

Currencies, Economic growth, Financial Events, Leverage

Extraordinary events have taken place in the UK since my posting on Friday:

• A bankrun took place on the 8th largest bank, Northern Rock, with lines of depositors queuing for hours outside its branches all over the weekend and Monday.
• Faced with this, the UK Finance Minister was forced to announce that the government would guarantee all deposits in the bank, regardless of size. Previously, savers would have received a maximum of £31,700 in the event of default.
• Shares in Northern Rock closed below £3 last night, having been over £12 as recently as February.
• Shares of the other two banks that have fuelled the growth in UK subprime lending, Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley, have also fallen heavily since Thursday. A&L fell 30% yesterday as the storm intensified.

On 12 July, I wrote that ‘the problems in the US subprime mortgage sector…have the potential to become a global hurricane’. The problem now is that, unlike a normal hurricane, this one seems to gather more force each time it touches down.

As I noted on 14 August, it started with ‘rolling thunder’ and its main impact was on poor Americans, who were losing their homes. Then, as it circled again, central banks were in the eye of the storm as they tried to avoid a credit crunch. I forecast that if they failed, the next impact would be on the real economy, as housing and autos have been a mainstay of chemical and polymer demand in recent years:

• The construction industry boomed in those economies where housing markets have been strong.
• ‘Equity release’ provided consumers with more money to spend on chemical-intensive purchases such as autos
• In turn, chemical demand surged in the export-oriented, emerging economies of Asia.

Since July 14, I have been advocating that CEO’s should develop ‘a major cost-leadership programme’, ready for the end of the summer vacation. Unless the US Federal Reserve can pull a rabbit out of its hat at today’s meeting, it will now be time for this programme to be rolled out.


Northern Rock – subprime contagion spreads


When the US subprime crisis began, we were assured by the ‘experts’ that it ...

Learn more

Goldman sees $95/bbl oil


Well, now we know. Interviewed by the Financial Times on Monday, Alan Greenspan ...

Learn more
More posts
‘Watch out below!’ as supply chain chaos comes to an end

“What goes up, comes down” is usually a good motto when prices start to reach for the sk...

Industry now needs to step up, if Net Zero is to be achieved

Net Zero is clearly the key issue of our time. With COP26 about to start, 3 key elements need to com...

The Fed’s stock market bubble is at risk as China bursts its real estate bubble

The US stock market bubble just keeps rising. And every investor “knows” that the US Fed...

EU patience starts to run out as UK threatens to break the N Ireland Protocol

Unsurprisingly, it turns out that Brexit still isn’t “oven-ready”, despite the UK ...

An end to the China bubble would risk a Minsky moment

My letter in today’s Financial Times warning of the risk to Western financial markets from the bur...

Xi aims to “bring order out of chaos” by bursting China’s property bubble

China is at the start of its biggest economic shake-up since 1978, when Deng Xiaoping launched his p...

The end of China’s real estate bubble will impact global supply chains, exports and growth

“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked. “Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually, then suddenly....

An Evergrande default could reset the Chinese, and global, economy

China’s economy has been ‘subprime on steroids’ since the financial crisis in 2008...


Market Intelligence

ICIS provides market intelligence that help businesses in the energy, petrochemical and fertilizer industries.

Learn more


Across the globe, ICIS consultants provide detailed analysis and forecasting for the petrochemical, energy and fertilizer markets.

Learn more

Specialist Services

Find out more about how our specialist consulting services, events, conferences and training courses can help your teams.

Learn more

ICIS Insight

From our news service to our thought-leadership content, ICIS experts bring you the latest news and insight, when you need it.

Learn more