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Chemicals and the Economy

Operating earnings hide US economic downturn

Companies normally have 3 ways of pleasing investors: • Meet or better expectations for revenue and earnings • Cut costs to meet earnings if revenues disappoint • Focus attention on a more favourable earnings definition When things are going well, the first option is preferred. But under the pressure of a sustained economic downturn, it […]

US and EU dominate global consumption

Interesting new research from Prof Nouriel Roubini provides some perspective on relative levels of consumer spending around the world: • US private consumption accounted for 16% of total global output in 2008 • It was valued at $10trn, just ahead of European consumption at $9trn • Total Asian consumption was under $5trn • China’s consumption […]

OPEC says oil market still “fundamentally weak”

The latest OPEC monthly oil report paints a bearish picture of the market. It expects OPEC to supply 28.4mbd in 2009, down 7.5% from 2008 levels. And it forecasts more of the same for 2010, expecting to supply just 28 mbd. Its analysis suggests that “the market is still fundamentally weak amid ample stocks of […]

Cerberus loses $6bn in just 2 years with Chrysler

Cerberus’ timing was clearly not very good with its Chrysler acquisition in Q3 2007. And Steve Feinberg, Cerberus co-founder, admitted this when he told the New York Times “we were too optimistic on timing. Maybe what we should have done was not bought it.” So far, they have lost $6bn of their original $7.4bn investment. […]

Benzene signals a market top

As regular readers will know, the blog believes benzene is a good leading indicator for chemical demand, due to its widespread use in the industry. Last November saw its price “on the floor“, indicating a major downturn, and it remained there until March, before its price began to “surge” in early April as destocking ended […]

The banks’ plumbing systems appear to be blocked

The blog’s favourite financial journalist, Gillian Tett, has written an excellent article summarising the similarities between today’s problems in the western banking system, and those of Japan’s during the ‘lost decade’ of the 1990’s. Her point is that although central banks are pouring money into the system via ‘quantitative easing’, it is clearly not reaching […]

China’s banks worry about the speculative bubble

This year, China has been the one place in the world where almost anyone can get a loan. But now, it seems policy is about to change. Zhang Jianguo, president of the 2nd largest bank, China Construction, has announced a 70% cut in H2 lending to Rmb 200bn ($29bn), “to avert a surge in bad […]

Procter & Gamble goes Basic

As the downturn began In July 2007, leading retailers Tesco and Wal-Mart “signalled a major shift in consumer priorities“. And Tesco added a warning that “If you don’t have the basic things right, you will be talking at the edge rather than at the centre“. 2 years later Procter & Gamble, one of the world’s […]

US auto sales continue rebound

US auto sales have not yet followed the European lead, and shown an increase versus 2008 levels. And they certainly don’t match China’s 17% sales increase in H1. But they were down just 11% in July. And Ford did post its first annual sales gain since November 2007. As the chart shows, all the major […]

Sodium silicate becomes ‘killer app’ for old engines

Sales of most chemicals are down due to the recession. But US sodium silicate volumes could see a massive boost, according to the Wall Street Journal. The reason is that the government has mandated its use to destroy the engines of the old cars that it buys under the subsidy scheme. Normally ‘liquid glass’, as […]

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