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Chemicals and the Economy

US PE exporters face more competition in Brazil

As promised, the blog looks today at the performance of US polyethylene (PE) exporters in Brazil. It was the fastest-growing of the major markets in 2011, as the wider economy benefitted from China’s demand. Since 2008, Brazil’s PE net imports have grown 78%, from 445KT to 793KT in 2011. But as the chart shows (based […]

Global auto sales growth stalls as BabyBoomers age

Cars are now the largest single market for chemical sales, as housing markets have slowed globally. Each new US car is worth $3297, for example, according to the American Chemistry Council (ACC), making the US market worth $42bn in 2011. 2011 auto sales were ~59m, up 4% from 2010. The West (EU, USA, Japan) still […]

2012 sees rising political risk, and protectionism

The world enjoyed an economic SuperCycle between 1982-2007. Its largest economy, the USA, suffered just 16 months of recession during the whole 25 years. As a result, social and political issues took a back-seat. Politicians instead competed to occupy the middle ground. Former UK premier Margaret Thatcher’s phrase ‘you can’t buck the markets’, became received […]

US, China, EU auto sales stall

Auto sales in the world’s 3 main markets (China, USA, EU), saw much slower growth in the past 3 months. The chart above shows how they have moved in 2011 (red square) versus previous years. It is clear that the stimulus-led boom seen since 2009 has come to an end: • Overall, sales in the […]

Auto sales face weaker H2

This week’s special blog series has focused on auto markets, a critical source of chemical demand. Today, it concludes by summarising developments in China, USA, EU, which account for ~55% of global sales. They have moved in different directions since the Great Recession began: • China’s volumes soared in 2009-10 • The USA has fallen […]

Ethylene derivative imports threaten European markets

The chart above is a flashing amber light for European cracker operators. Based on ICIS Pricing data, it shows the delta between (a) European and US ethylene contract prices (blue line), and (b) Europe and the North East Asian spot price (red line). Usually, these deltas range between -$50/t and $100/t. H2 2008 was clearly […]

Boom/Gloom index signals rising austerity

Q1 was a very strong quarter for Western companies operating at the upstream end of the chemicals value chain: • Plants were generally operating well, with few force majeures • Most importantly, the crude oil price jumped 20%. Many buyers had reduced inventory in December for working capital reasons. Then they found they had to […]

OECD indicators signal slower growth

The OECD’s leading indicators for the global economy suggest that GDP growth is continuing to slow. As the above chart from the American Chemistry Council shows, the OECD’s three key indicators have all slipped from H1 2010’s peaks. The composite indicator (blue) has fallen sharply to +5% from +13%, whilst industrial production (red) is down […]

Europe sees 2-speed performance on auto sales

The blog is changing its chart for EU auto sales. The aim is to better show seasonal trends, and also enable easy comparison with US sales. It now shows sales by month, since 2005. Performance in 2007 (green line) and 2010 (brown) is highlighted, as this represents the peaks and troughs. January’s 1 million sales […]

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