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Chemicals and the Economy

Petrochemicals must face up to multiple challenges

Europe’s petrochemical sector must prepare now for the trade war, US start-ups, Brexit and the circular economy, as I discuss in this interview with Will Beacham of ICIS news  at the European Petrochemical Association Conference. With higher tariff barriers going up between the US and China, the market in Europe is likely to experience an influx of […]

Markets in wait-and-see mode as holiday season arrives

Markets have moved into summer holiday mode in recent weeks whilst they wait for a new direction, as the chart shows.  It is therefore timely to look back over developments since the start of the year: The S&P 500 (purple) has been the clear winner, up 15%.  The key to its out-performance has been the central […]

Consensus views on growth, commodity regulation, start to change

In early March, the blog described itself as feeling like “a lonely voice, focused on what is really happening in the real world”.   But gradually since then, the consensus view on growth and commodities regulation has begun to shift in its direction.  For example, a recent New York Times article on China by Nobel Prize-winner Paul Krugman could have […]

Cotton prices slip as India reverses export ban

Cotton prices are falling again, since Monday’s reversal by the Indian government of its proposed ban on cotton exports. India is the world’s 2nd largest cotton exporter, after the USA, with 20% of the market: • On 5 March, its Textiles Ministry banned all exports • Domestic users had applied pressure to divert supplies to […]

Lower refining rates support EU petchem margins

Sometimes every cloud does have a silver lining. And that’s currently the case with the fall in demand for oil products. The European petchem industry is based on feedstock from refineries such as naphtha and LPG. And as the chart above from the IEA shows, German refinery runs, like others elsewhere in Europe, are down […]

Oil prices weaken as inventories continue to build

Oil markets are an accident waiting to happen for the chemical industry. Oil inventories around the world are close to record levels, with the IEA (International Energy Agency) reporting they are over 61 days of demand. Equally, as the Petromatrix chart above shows, they are at record levels in the USA (the world’s largest market), […]

TOTAL warn on oil supplies

TOTAL’s CEO, Christophe de Margerie, has become even more pessimistic on the future of oil supplies. In 2007, when prices were rising, he suggested it would be very difficult for production to reach even 100mbd, versus the 130 mbd or more assumed by the IEA and the US government. Now, he is warning that the […]

Saudi plays hard-ball on oil prices

A month ago, with WTI at $70/bbl, the blog suggested that: “If refiners are forced to cut runs for December, then it would be hard for OPEC to cut its own production quickly enough to compensate. In that case, a $20 – $30/bbl range for crude, albeit temporarily, would not be impossible.” During November, prices […]

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