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Chemicals and the Economy

Subprime: a many-headed Hydra

Yesterday, the ECB (European Central Bank) provided an unprecedented €95bn into the region’s credit markets, to maintain liquidity. Otherwise, firms would have had problems paying their bills, and employees might not have been paid their wages. This is serious stuff, and it was followed by the US Fed providing $24bn into US markets, and the […]

US auto sales catch subprime fallout

Two of the largest US auto manufacturers, GM and Ford, have now followed Wal-Mart and Tesco’s lead in detecting a change in consumer sentiment. GM, after announcing particularly strong Q2 Asian and emerging market sales, added that US sales declined 7% as a result of ‘increasing fuel prices and concerns about housing’. Ford said that […]

Regional markets at price parity again

An interesting thing has happened to benzene markets, which I haven’t seen noted elsewhere. According to ICIS pricing, average prices last week in Europe, US Gulf and Asia were $1053/t, $1052/t and $1040/t respectively. Compare that with a year ago. Then, Europe was at $1220/t, USG at $1135/t and Asia at $1010/t. So we have […]

Interesting Quotes

Normally a 275 point fall on Wall Street, and a 600 point fall in Hong Kong, would make for some headlines. But this time, the media coverage has been very muted. Presumably everybody thinks it will be another ‘9 day wonder’, and believes with Chuck Prince of Citigroup that one simply has to keep ‘dancing’. […]

NINJA turtles ride again

The head of Germany’s financial regulator is warning that US subprime mortgage problems may be about to lead to the worst banking crisis since 1931. Yesterday, WTI crude broke through its 1980’s highs to hit a new all-time record price of $78.77/bbl, and looks poised to push on past $80/bbl. And adding to the sense […]

Turning base quality loans into gold

Alchemists once claimed the ability to turn base metal into gold. More recently, some bankers seem to have been claiming a similar genius, via the magic catalyst of securitisation. These bankers no longer perform their traditional role of lending on a prudent basis to good quality borrowers in the personal or corporate sector. Instead, they […]

Greed and Fear

Bill Gross runs PIMCO, the world’s largest government bond managers with assets of nearly $700bn. In a new commentary, he pulls no punches about what he sees as the ‘gluttony’ of the super-rich amongst the private equity and hedge fund elite. He also takes aim at the lenders who, in his view, have been ‘too […]

Oil prices and the euro

The US dollar has been falling steadily in recent weeks. It is particularly weak against the euro, having fallen almost 5% since January. OPEC countries buy much more from the eurozone than from the US, and the OPEC President has said they are ‘concerned’ about dollar weakness. We probably need to start monitoring oil prices […]

A tale of two outlooks

If you read the financial pages of your newspaper, everything sounds rosy. But if you turn to the news section, its all gloom. Both views can’t continue to exist alongside each other for ever. Whichever scenario comes out on top, will have major implications for the chemical industry. My own view is that this week’s […]

2008 Budgets just became more difficult to finalise

Central bankers are like generals. They seem to prefer fighting their last war, rather than preparing for the next one. How else to explain their continued reluctance to recognise that higher food and energy prices are here to stay? As a result, interest rates now need to rise more than expected. Pity those who have […]

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