Benzene prices may be about to tell us something quite important about future profitability trends for the chemical industry. As the chart shows, benzene has hit a price ceiling at around $1200/t over the past 4 years in European markets. Yet crude has been climbing, from an average $38/bbl in 2004 to average $95/bbl so […]
Chemicals and the Economy
The US$ took a major tumble yesterday, as traders decided the Bear Stearns news meant there was little risk of central bank intervention. Against the Japanese yen it fell almost 2.5% during the day, closing at ¥97.35, as shown on the chart. It also fell 2% against the Swiss Franc to SwFr 0.98, and continues […]
We have now seen 3 financial disasters in a matter of days: • Northern Rock, the UK’s 5th largest mortgage lender, was nationalised last month, after failing to secure sufficient funds to continue lending. • Carlyle, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, saw their $16.6bn mortgage fund default on Thursday, due to its […]
I am indebted to Paul Krugman for passing on this piece of black humour, now going the rounds in financial markets. Unfortunately, these problems are getting closer to home. Carlyle, who have a number of private equity investments in chemical companies, defaulted on a $16.6bn bond fund today.
The Financial Times this morning reports that the US Fed fears that ‘the economic downturn in the US could turn into a deep and protracted recession of the kind that plagued Japan’. Clearly based on interviews with senior Fed officials and other policymakers, the two articles (one for the European edition, and one for the […]
The US$ had now fallen through the ¥102 level, which has held since 1995, and went straight to the psychologically important ¥100 level. The dollar peaked 9 months ago at ¥124, and so it has now fallen 19%. This is dramatic by any standards. I forecast back in November that an ‘old-fashioned currency crisis’ could […]
India is apparently facing its own subprime crisis. Banks have cut back on lending, as the Bank of India has caused real interest rates to rise to around 7%. Loan growth is already down 20% this year, with personal unsecured loans facing the greatest cutbacks. ICICI, India’s largest bank, has withdrawn entirely from this sector, […]
China announced yesterday that inflation had soared again last month, reaching 8.7%, versus the government target of 4.8%. Part of the increase is clearly due to the effects of recent major storms. But with the US Fed likely to cut rates soon, China remains in a difficult position. If it increases interest rates, then the […]
Central bankers are slowly recognising that inflation is becoming a serious problem. But their responses differ. So chemical companies will find it harder to predict interest and exchange rate policies.
OPEC today decided to hold oil production at current levels, even though prices are at a level which clearly threaten economic growth. They even recognised this risk in their statement, ‘highlighting the economic slowdown in the USA, which together with the deepening credit crisis in financial markets, is increasing the downside risks for world economic […]