Paul Hodges

Samsung stumbles in global smartphone market as Xiaomi overtakes Apple

Smartphone sales confirm that global markets are continuing to pivot to the New Normal world. Back in 2014, Samsung dominated with its middle market positioning. But since then, its position has been squeezed as the market polarises between low-cost Chinese suppliers and Apple’s focus on adding services. Every third smartphone used to be a Samsung.

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Samsung stumbles in global smartphone market as Xiaomi overtakes Apple Read More

Europe’s Green Deal will transform its economy, as floods confirm urgency of tackling climate change

The floods raging in Germany and Benelux highlight the scale of the Climate Change challenge ahead.  Last week, Europe announced its roadmap towards a Net Zero economy.  It emphasised that achieving Net Zero, even by 2050, will be impossible if we don’t start now. As the Commission noted in presenting the strategy: “Climate change is

The post Europe’s Green Deal will transform its economy, as floods confirm urgency of tackling climate change appeared first on Chemicals and the Economy.

Europe’s Green Deal will transform its economy, as floods confirm urgency of tackling climate change Read More

Oil markets enter the endgame as car companies rush to electrify

Almost every day now sees a car company rushing to announce its plans to boost Electric Vehicle (EV) output. And key OPEC members – such as the UAE – are starting to recognise they have only a few years left to sell their oil, before the market disappears. Last May, the influential International Energy Agency

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Oil markets enter the endgame as car companies rush to electrify Read More

“When all the experts and forecasts agree — something else is going to happen”, Bob Farrell

At the beginning of the year, “everyone knew” that inflation was about to take off, and that the US$ was going to collapse. Last week, the great Bob Farrell’s Rule No 9 proved its worth, yet again. US interest rates fell sharply and the US$ bottomed for this cycle. The two charts above tell the

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“When all the experts and forecasts agree — something else is going to happen”, Bob Farrell Read More

Brand-owners start to focus on renewable carbon

The original debate on plastics recycling owed its prominence to Ellen MacArthur, the yachtswoman who was appalled by the volume of plastic waste in the oceans, as she sailed round the world. This led her to set up her Foundation, which soon began to work with the World Economic Forum in developing the New Plastics

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Brand-owners start to focus on renewable carbon Read More

Friends of the Earth v Royal Dutch Shell – what did the Dutch Court rule, and what does it mean for Shell’s business?

My Dutch colleague, Daniël de Blocq van Scheltinga, is a graduate of Leiden University in the Netherlands, with a Master of Law degree and a specialty in International law. Here he gives his expert view on the Dutch court’s decision to order Shell to reduce its CO2 emissions by at least 45% , relative to

The post Friends of the Earth v Royal Dutch Shell – what did the Dutch Court rule, and what does it mean for Shell’s business? appeared first on Chemicals and the Economy.

Friends of the Earth v Royal Dutch Shell – what did the Dutch Court rule, and what does it mean for Shell’s business? Read More

ACS Chemistry & the Economy webinar on Thursday

Please join me for the next ACS Chemicals & Economy webinar on Thursday, at 2pm Eastern Standard Time, USA, when we will discuss: How businesses can be more successful by taking a more holistic view of the environment in which they operate How companies are refocusing due to the shifts in consumer demand and the

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ACS Chemistry & the Economy webinar on Thursday Read More

“One size no longer fits all” as the global smartphone market breaks down into different segments

The pandemic was very good news for some companies, with demand for online activities rocketing. But whilst many parts of the developing world are still suffering, most developed countries are now starting to reopen as vaccinations spread. Western companies are now struggling for chip supplies, due to their lack of local investment. The Chinese market

The post “One size no longer fits all” as the global smartphone market breaks down into different segments appeared first on Chemicals and the Economy.

“One size no longer fits all” as the global smartphone market breaks down into different segments Read More

Oil markets, OPEC, enter the endgame for the Age of Oil

2 major events shocked oil markets last week. They marked the start of (a) the endgame for the Age of Oil and (b) the paradigm shift to the Circular Economy and the new Age of Energy Abundance.  The new ‘Net Zero by 2050’ report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) was the first shock: It

The post Oil markets, OPEC, enter the endgame for the Age of Oil appeared first on Chemicals and the Economy.

Oil markets, OPEC, enter the endgame for the Age of Oil Read More

225 years ago today. The first ever vaccination – against smallpox, the great killer of the time

The pandemic has reminded us of the critical role played by vaccination in our lives. Its impact began 225 years ago today with Dr Edward Jenner’s discovery of smallpox vaccination. It literally changed the world.  And today, we have a new opportunity to reshape our world.  Please click here to download a more detailed PDF

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225 years ago today. The first ever vaccination – against smallpox, the great killer of the time Read More

Supply chains set to transform as companies start to reshore

Major new opportunities are starting to appear in today’s New Normal world, as I describe in a new analysis for the Institution of Chemical Engineers. Please click here to read the full article. We are set to enter a “New Normal” world as economies slowly reopen again with the arrival of Covid-19 vaccines. This will

The post Supply chains set to transform as companies start to reshore appeared first on Chemicals and the Economy.

Supply chains set to transform as companies start to reshore Read More

Competence starts to replace charisma as a key factor in politics as the pandemic continues

The appalling tragedy in India reminds us that the Covid pandemic is very far from being solved. And more generally, the latest Ipsos ‘What worries the world’ global poll shows high levels of concern over unemployment, inequality, corruption and crime. Unsurprisingly, almost 2/3rds of people think their country is heading on the wrong track. One

The post German and French elections will mark new era for EU leadership appeared first on Chemicals and the Economy.

Competence starts to replace charisma as a key factor in politics as the pandemic continues Read More

Biden’s Earth Day Summit puts plastics recycling on the fast track

Plastics has long been the ‘odd one out’ in terms of recycling. Steel, aluminium, glass, cardboard, rubber and paper routinely have up to a 70% rate of recycling. But plastics has been stuck at around 10% for a long time. President Biden’s Earth Day Summit is likely to change this picture, and quickly. The reason

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Biden’s Earth Day Summit puts plastics recycling on the fast track Read More

Pandemic leads to ‘baby bust’ as births decline in most countries

A year ago, many were suggesting the lockdowns might produce a “baby boom” as couples spent more time together. But early data suggests the world is instead seeing a “baby bust”. As Nikkei Asia reports: “Births (in December/January) have fallen between 10% and 20% in such countries as Japan, France and Spain — and even

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Pandemic leads to ‘baby bust’ as births decline in most countries Read More

Americans hunker down on spending as the pandemic’s impact continues

US stock markets have been hitting new records recently, as investors swoon over the likelihood that the $1400 stimulus payments will power a major surge in consumer spending. But unfortunately, the facts show this is most unlikely. The chart from the New York Federal Reserve measures consumers’ intentions with regards to the 3 stimulus cheques

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Americans hunker down on spending as the pandemic’s impact continues Read More

Smallpox was the first vaccination to change the world – now we have a new opportunity to improve our lives

The pandemic has reminded us of the critical role played by vaccination in our lives. But few realise the enormous impact made just 200 years ago by Dr Jenner’s discovery of smallpox vaccination. It literally changed the world.  And today, we have a new opportunity to reshape our world.  Please click here to download a PDF

The post Smallpox was the first vaccination to change the world – now we have a new opportunity to improve our lives appeared first on Chemicals and the Economy.

Smallpox was the first vaccination to change the world – now we have a new opportunity to improve our lives Read More

COP 26 set to accelerate development of the 15-minute city

One of the good things to happen in the pandemic over the past year is that ‘cooking has become the new commute’ for many people. Working from home means they have often saved an hour or more a day in commuting time. And instead of sitting in a crowded bus or train, or being stuck

The post COP 26 set to accelerate development of the 15-minute city appeared first on Chemicals and the Economy.

COP 26 set to accelerate development of the 15-minute city Read More

Circular economy set to replace today’s broken global supply chains

The Great Freeze in Texas has confirmed once again the problems with today’s global supply chains.  As the New York Times has highlighted: “The pandemic has disrupted every stage of the (supply chain) journey”. The problems began last year with the disruption to the global shipping container system. Millions of containers were used to ship

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Circular economy set to replace today’s broken global supply chains Read More

China’s dual circulation policy aims to reduce debt reliance

Every now and then, people wake up to the fact that debt is only good news when it adds to growth. Otherwise, it simply destroys value. China is usually the case study for this analysis, as the chart confirms. It shows the rise in debt from 2002, when official data begins, versus the rise in

The post China’s dual circulation policy aims to reduce debt reliance appeared first on Chemicals and the Economy.

China’s dual circulation policy aims to reduce debt reliance Read More

Rising US interest rates, US$ and oil prices set to pressure financial markets

Everyone who has ever played the Beer Distribution Game on a training course knows what is happening in supply chains today. A small increase in underlying demand is rapidly leading to a massive increase in ‘apparent demand’. As the New York Times reports, “the pandemic has disrupted every stage of the (supply chain) journey.”  And

The post Rising US interest rates, US$ and oil prices set to pressure financial markets appeared first on Chemicals and the Economy.

Rising US interest rates, US$ and oil prices set to pressure financial markets Read More

Weak demand – and the illusion of a return to “normal”

My new interview with Real Vision focuses on the major changes underway in the economy. Our analysis of the chemical industry, auto market, and technology sector, suggests a return to the “old normal” is highly unlikely. Instead, major changes are underway in Demand Patterns, Reshoring, Energy Abundance, the Circular Economy and in Advanced Manufacturing.  For

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Weak demand – and the illusion of a return to “normal” Read More

UK set to take hard line on EU trade under David Frost

The Brexit debate has always been about politics, not economics.  So it was no surprise that December’s UK-EU Trade & Cooperation Agreement (TCA) was the first trade deal in history to actually increase barriers rather than reduce them. The reason is that Brexiters are focused on a very narrow concept of “sovereignty”. And last week’s

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UK set to take hard line on EU trade under David Frost Read More

Iran highlights OPEC’s dilemma on output cuts

Saying you “won’t do something” may stop you digging a bigger hole for yourself. But it doesn’t help in deciding what you should do instead. That’s OPEC’s dilemma today on raising oil output. Everything seemed simple enough a year ago, as the pandemic took hold: Saudi Arabia’s first reaction was to assume it would have

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Iran highlights OPEC’s dilemma on output cuts Read More

Smartphone sales highlight new trends in consumer markets

Smartphone markets continue to provide early warning of the major changes taking place in consumer markets. And Q4 data confirms the old rules are becoming less and less relevant:  As the chart shows, market positioning is now all-important. Apple are stretching their lead in the ‘sweet spot’ of the value chain – design – and

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Smartphone sales highlight new trends in consumer markets Read More

EU focuses on a sustainable and circular plastics system

“The challenges posed by plastics are to a large extent due to the fact that our production and consumption systems are not sustainable. “The COVID-19 pandemic and climate change have amplified public attention for the plastic waste crisis we face. “It is clear that the best way is to shift to a fundamentally sustainable and

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EU focuses on a sustainable and circular plastics system Read More

Buyers scramble for product as global supply chains breakdown

Asian LNG prices reached $32.50/MMBTU this month, up from less than $2/MMBTU in June. The Shanghai Containerised Freight Index hit $8000/TEU container (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit), up from prior rates of $1500/TEU. In Europe, UK supermarkets have warned of containing food shortages in N Ireland due to the new Brexit trading rules. None of this would

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Buyers scramble for product as global supply chains breakdown Read More

5 key questions for success in the New Normal

Sustainability rather than globalisation is becoming the key driver for business. And the paradigm shift this creates means that companies need to adopt new Critical Success Factors as shown above. Leadership skills will be essential at all levels of the organisation in order to stimulate the creativity and action orientation required for success. There are

5 key questions for success in the New Normal Read More

Look for Winners and Losers in 2021

“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen”. Lenin’s famous insight was highly relevant to 2020. It was full of such weeks as the coronavirus pandemic became a catalyst for major paradigm shifts in the economy. Of course, some sceptics still expect a quick V-shaped return to ‘business as usual’,

Look for Winners and Losers in 2021 Read More

Businesses face “biggest imposition of red tape in 50 years” as Brexit begins

Most companies had closed when the new EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) was finally announced on Christmas Eve. And they are only now starting to get their heads around what it all means. Essentially, it creates the biggest shake-up to the UK’s trading relationships since 1973.  As the BBC’s Economics Editor reported: “It is

Businesses face “biggest imposition of red tape in 50 years” as Brexit begins Read More

US chemical companies face ‘wake-up call’ as Biden focuses on the Climate Change agenda

I worked for many years at a world-leading chemical company, ICI. But sadly, it lost its way as senior management began to focus more on financial metrics than market developments. In 2007, it disappeared. Today, other companies including the once-mighty ExxonMobil risk making similar mistakes: EM was the world’s most valuable company just 9 years ago It 

US chemical companies face ‘wake-up call’ as Biden focuses on the Climate Change agenda Read More

OPEC set to lose out as Biden, EU and China focus on Climate Change opportunities

OPEC used to dominate global oil markets. In the early 1980s, there was even talk of another OPEC cartel to control gas prices. But those days are long gone.  Instead OPEC members such as the UAE are increasingly aware they have only a limited time left to monetise their vast reserves of fossil fuels. This is

OPEC set to lose out as Biden, EU and China focus on Climate Change opportunities Read More

Your A to Z Guide to the reality of Brexit after 31 December

(Picture credit Shutterstock) A.  Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty set out the rules for leaving the European Union. As with most negotiations, it assumed the leaving country would present its proposals for the post-withdrawal period – which would then be finalised with the other members. But the UK government has little experience of trade negotiations, as these

Your A to Z Guide to the reality of Brexit after 31 December Read More

Plastics producers face a ‘wake-up call’ from both ends of the value chain

Plastics producers have had a great run over the past 60 years, as demand took off for their products. But now globalisation is being replaced by sustainability, and they risk being left with an out-of-date business model, and falling revenues. Upstream, refinery closures are gathering pace as electric vehicle sales accelerate Downstream, brand owners and

Plastics producers face a ‘wake-up call’ from both ends of the value chain Read More

Smartphone sales confirm mid-market of ‘affordable luxury’ is disappearing

Another 3 months, another decline in global smartphone sales. And more pressure on mid-market players like Samsung, as China’s low-cost producers continue to gain market share. As the chart shows: Samsung had 35% of the global market back in 2013, but was down to 23% in Q3 Its annualised volume fell to 262 million from

Smartphone sales confirm mid-market of ‘affordable luxury’ is disappearing Read More

“We may be opponents, but we are not enemies, we’re all Americans”

Groundhog Day 2, last week’s made-for-TV movie set in Pennsylvania, was the perfect lockdown choice. Every morning, one could check the vote tallies. And every evening one could go to bed, knowing that the same screens would be repeating in the morning. Until, eventually, we finally awoke this morning, like Bill Murray in the original

“We may be opponents, but we are not enemies, we’re all Americans” Read More

If you don’t want to know the future, look away now

Next week, I will publish my annual Budget Outlook, covering the 2021-2023 period. It will highlight how the pandemic is accelerating major paradigm shifts in society, politics and the global economy. I have been publishing these Outlooks since 2007, and they disprove the idea that forecasting is a waste of time.  They highlight instead most

If you don’t want to know the future, look away now Read More

Chemicals in the eye of the storm as UK heads for a WTO Brexit on 1 January

On Friday, the UK premier confirmed what many of us have expected for a long time. There is unlikely to be a trade deal with the EU27 when the UK leaves at the end of December: “We should get ready for 1 January with arrangements that are more like Australia’s – based on simple principles

Chemicals in the eye of the storm as UK heads for a WTO Brexit on 1 January Read More

Pandemic redraws the map

  Companies have entered a new landscape where the coronavirus has accelerated major paradigm shifts, as I discuss in my latest analysis for ICIS Chemical Business. 2020 is proving to be one of those years when time seems to speed up. The pandemic has been the catalyst for a range of paradigm shifts, which are

Pandemic redraws the map Read More

Covid fears risk a Great Depression and major social unrest

Governments spent most of February/March ignoring my warnings here on the dangers posed by the Covid pandemic. Now many are moving in the opposite direction. Unintentionally, they are helping to create fear and panic, which could well lead to another Great Depression and major social unrest. HOW DID WE GET HERE? I began warning of

Covid fears risk a Great Depression and major social unrest Read More

Chemical industry has key role in helping to create a more sustainable world

The chemical industry has a critical role to play in enabling the world to “build back better” after the pandemic. That is the conclusion of the World Economic Forum’s Chemical and Advanced Materials Industry Action Group, for which I had the privilege of acting as an Expert Adviser. Its conclusions are as follows: “Where next?

Chemical industry has key role in helping to create a more sustainable world Read More

The state of the global economy in 2020

Last Wednesday, I gave the opening presentation for the ICIS PET Conference and looked at whether the global economy is seeing a Rebound or a full Recovery after the lockdowns? It covered a wide range of topics: Chemicals’ Capacity Utilisation is the best leading indicator for the global economy, and it continues to weaken Central

The state of the global economy in 2020 Read More

Local circular plastics solutions to replace mega projects business model

NEW YORK (ICIS)–There will be a paradigm shift away from mega crackers producing massive volumes of plastics for export, and toward local recycling of plastic waste for local finished goods production. Joe Chang, editor of ICIS Chemical Business, summarises my presentation earlier this month to the Societe de Chimie Industrielle in New York. “The industry

Local circular plastics solutions to replace mega projects business model Read More

Global chemical industry – key trends for success in today’s New Normal

The chemical industry is the best leading indicator for the global economy. On Friday, I had the privilege of discussing a wide range of key issues with Ajaya Sharma in a lunchtime interview for India’s main business station, ET Now. Our interview focused on a number of critical areas and why the future is going

Global chemical industry – key trends for success in today’s New Normal Read More

Bankruptcies now the key risk as hopes for V-shaped recovery disappear

Governments, financial markets and central banks all originally assumed the Covid-19 pandemic would be over in a few days or weeks. But it is now clear they were wrong. And unfortunately, there is little sign of a Plan B emerging. The idea was that consumers would have plenty of money in their pockets after the

Bankruptcies now the key risk as hopes for V-shaped recovery disappear Read More

Reshoring set to create Winners and Losers as advanced manufacturing takes over

Not many companies still operate in the same way as 500 years ago, or even 50 years ago. But in manufacturing, it’s quite common.  As the pictures show, a visitor from Shakespeare’s time – or from after World War 2 – would feel at home if they visited many manufacturing sites today. The issue is

Reshoring set to create Winners and Losers as advanced manufacturing takes over Read More

The Top 5 pandemic paradigm shifts

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the fundamental changes which were already underway in global markets, as I discuss in a new interview with Will Beacham of I.C.I.S. Companies and investors need to focus on the challenges and opportunities created by 5 major paradigm shifts as we move into the New Normal. These will impact individual

The Top 5 pandemic paradigm shifts Read More

The New Normal for global industry

The global chemical industry is the third largest sector in the world behind agriculture and energy, and its outputs find their way into everything we consume. Paul Hodges, chairman of the pH Report, analyzes the chemical industry to give a unique perspective on the global economy to investors and corporations. In this timely discussion, he

The New Normal for global industry Read More

Hertz goes bankrupt as non-essential consumer demand disappears

The US Federal Reserve has now spent $7tn bailing out Wall Street. But it couldn’t save the 102-year old Hertz rental company from filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for its US business on Friday night. Sadly, Hertz won’t be the only casualty. Its collapse instead marks the moment when the problems created by two

Hertz goes bankrupt as non-essential consumer demand disappears Read More

Debt, deflation, demographics and Brexit set to challenge London house prices

London property websites haven’t used the word “reduced” for many years. But it’s starting to appear again on homes for sale and rent, even in core city postcodes. And in another sign of the downturn, homes can now be on offer for months without moving. The problem is that prices were already ready to tumble

Debt, deflation, demographics and Brexit set to challenge London house prices Read More

Smartphone sales head into decline as affordability becomes key

The smartphone sales decline accelerated in Q1, as Strategy Analytics report: “Global smartphone shipments fell 17% to reach 275m in Q1. This is the smartphone industry’s worst quarterly performance of all time. On an annualised basis, as the chart shows, global volume was down 12% to 1.36bn from the Q3 2017 peak. And, of course,

Smartphone sales head into decline as affordability becomes key Read More

The bill for two decades of doomed stimulus measures is due

The Financial Times kindly made my letter on the risks now associated with central bank stimulus their Lead Letter One has to agree with your editorial that deflation is now probably inevitable (“Deflation is a bigger fear than hyperinflation”, FT View, April 28). But it is still disappointing to see that the role of central

The bill for two decades of doomed stimulus measures is due Read More

Local supply chains replace global trade as world starts to “do more with less”

Something quite dramatic is happening in the global economy.  Of course, Wall Street analysts still maintain that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic will be over by the summer.  What else can they say, given their income mostly depends on persuading the public to buy shares? But anyone on Main Street knows that it will

Local supply chains replace global trade as world starts to “do more with less” Read More

Financial markets enter their Convulsion phase

Many companies and investors are still comparing today’s downturn to the 9-month hiccups seen after the 1990/91 Gulf War and the 2000/1 dotcom crash. In reality, however, this is wishful thinking, as the IMF highlighted last week in its World Economic Outlook: “The Great Lockdown: Worst Economic Downturn Since the Great Depression” One key question,

Financial markets enter their Convulsion phase Read More

World risks moving from Denial into Anger as the Paradigm of Loss moves forward

The head of the IMF has warned again on the likely scale of the economic depression ahead: “Global growth will turn sharply negative in 2020. In fact, we anticipate the worst economic fallout since the Great Depression.” None of us have ever seen a health crisis on the scale of Covid-19 . Nor have we

World risks moving from Denial into Anger as the Paradigm of Loss moves forward Read More

The world has wasted 3 months – there is little time now left to avoid a Covid-19 catastrophe

It is now 3 months since China’s state television broadcast the first news of the Wuhan virus, now known as Covid-19. And it is almost 3 months since China released the first genetic sequence for the virus on 9 January. But with certain notable exceptions, governments since then have mostly failed to properly activate their

The world has wasted 3 months – there is little time now left to avoid a Covid-19 catastrophe Read More

China’s property sector is at the epicentre of the crisis

A branch of Centaline Property Agency in Hong Kong © Bloomberg Indebted Chinese property developers threaten a domino effect on western credit markets , as I describe in my latest post for the Financial Times, published on the BeyondBrics blog Second-order impacts are starting to appear as a result of China’s lockdowns. These are having

China’s property sector is at the epicentre of the crisis Read More

A new recession era to emerge

Contingency planning has become mission-critical. The longer the coronavirus pandemic continues, the more it will expose the underlying fragility of today’s debt-laden global economy. Companies therefore have to move into crisis management mode, with a number of key areas requiring immediate attention: • Employee health and safety is the top priority. Governments are slowly waking

A new recession era to emerge Read More

“They may ring their bells now, before long they will be wringing their hands”

The wisdom of Sir Robert Walpole, the UK’s first premier, seems the only possible response to this weekend’s headline from the Wall Street Journal. How can a National Emergency ever be the basis for a major rise in stock markets? Of course, we all know that stock markets have become addicted to stimulus. But the

“They may ring their bells now, before long they will be wringing their hands” Read More

Chain’s smartphone and auto sales tumble as coronavirus hits demand

China is the world’s largest market for smartphones and autos – responsible for c30% of global sales for both.  Yet as Reuters notes: “Most western policymakers and journalists view the world economy through a framework that is 10-15 years out of date, failing to account fully for the enormous shift in activity towards China and

Chain’s smartphone and auto sales tumble as coronavirus hits demand Read More

China’s lockdown makes global debt crisis now almost certain

Beijing has a population of 21.5 million, but you wouldn’t know it from this BBC video from last Thursday.  Normally busy streets and transport systems are eerily empty, with food deliveries often the main traffic on the roads. It’s the same picture in industry, with the Baidu Migration Index reporting only 26% of migrant workers

China’s lockdown makes global debt crisis now almost certain Read More

China’s plastic ban and recycling launch marks end of ‘business as usual’ for plastics industry

Paradigm shifts start slowly at first, and it is easy to miss them. But then one day, they suddenly become obvious, and it becomes a scramble to catch up. That’s what happened on the waste plastic issue last week, when China decided to take action. As official news agency, Xinhua, reported: “The policy measures proposed

China’s plastic ban and recycling launch marks end of ‘business as usual’ for plastics industry Read More

Contingency planning is essential in 2020 as “synchronised slowdown” continues

The IMF has now confirmed that the world economy has moved into the synchronised slowdown that I forecast here a year ago. Its analysis also confirms the importance of the issues highlighted then, including “rising trade barriers and increasing geopolitical tensions”, a sharp decline in manufacturing, contraction in the auto industry and structural forces such

Contingency planning is essential in 2020 as “synchronised slowdown” continues Read More

Chart of the Decade – the Fed’s support for the S&P 500 will end with a debt crisis

Each year, there has been only one possible candidate for Chart of the Year.  Last year it was the collapse of China’s shadow banking bubble; 2017 was Bitcoin’s stratospheric rise; 2016 the near-doubling in US 10-year interest rates; and 2015 the oil price fall. This year, the ‘Chart of the Decade’ is in a league

Chart of the Decade – the Fed’s support for the S&P 500 will end with a debt crisis Read More

Boris Johnson will have to disappoint someone in 2020 as the UK finally leaves the EU

Finally, after three and a half years, the UK has reached “the end of the beginning” with Brexit, in Winston Churchill’s famous phrase. Since the referendum, its leaders have consistently refused to confront the real choices that have to be made over what type of Brexit it wants to have: In June 2016, then premier

Boris Johnson will have to disappoint someone in 2020 as the UK finally leaves the EU Read More

Global economy hits stall speed, whilst US S&P 500 sets new records

Whisper it not to your friends in financial markets, but the global economy is moving into recession. The US stock markets keep making new highs, thanks to the support from the major western central banks. But in the real world, where the rest of us live, the best leading indicator for the global economy is

Global economy hits stall speed, whilst US S&P 500 sets new records Read More

Portugal shows the way to climate neutrality by 2050

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will do”. The Irish proverb’s logic shows us the way forward on the greatest challenge that we face today, of achieving climate neutrality by 2050. As the President of the European Petrochemical Association, Marc Schuller, highlighted last month when issuing a ‘call to action’: “The

Portugal shows the way to climate neutrality by 2050 Read More

Oil markets hold their ‘flag shape’ for the moment, as recession risks mount

Oil markets can’t quite make up their mind as to what they want to do, as the chart confirms. The are trapped in a major ‘flag shape’. Every time they want to move sharply lower, the bulls jump in to buy on hopes of a major US-China trade deal and a strong economy. But when

Oil markets hold their ‘flag shape’ for the moment, as recession risks mount Read More

The next billion phone users will be buying $10 smart feature phones, not $1000 iPhones

Smartphone sales plateaued in Q3, down 9% since Q3 2017’s peak of 1.55bn, as the chart shows.  But the bigger threat from smart feature phones – now retailing for as little as $11 – continues to grow as Reliance and Vodacom launch new models in India and Africa. Smartphone sales are also seeing important shifts

The next billion phone users will be buying $10 smart feature phones, not $1000 iPhones Read More

Budgeting for paradigm shifts and a debt crisis

It is now 8 years since John Richardson and I published our 10-year forecast for 2021 in Boom, Gloom and the New Normal: How the Western BabyBoomers are Changing Demand Patterns, Again’. Remarkably, its core conclusions are very relevant today, as the summary confirms. Unfortunately, as we feared, policymakers refused to junk their out-of-date models,

Budgeting for paradigm shifts and a debt crisis Read More

Companies ignore the Perennials 55+ generation at their peril

Nearly a third of the the world’s High Income population are now in the Perennials 55+ generation. Yet companies mostly ignore their needs – assuming that all they want are walking sticks and sanitary pads.  Instead, they continue to focus on the relatively declining number of younger people. No wonder many companies are going bankrupt, and

Companies ignore the Perennials 55+ generation at their peril Read More

$50bn hole appears in New York financial markets – Fed is “looking into it”

Most people would quickly notice if $50 went missing from their purse or wallet. They would certainly notice if $50k suddenly disappeared from their bank account. But a fortnight ago, it took the New York Federal Reserve more than a day to notice that $50bn was missing from the money markets it was supposed to

$50bn hole appears in New York financial markets – Fed is “looking into it” Read More

Auto markets set for major disruption as Electric Vehicle sales reach tipping point

Major disruption is starting to occur in the world’s largest manufacturing industry.  Hundreds of thousands of jobs will likely be lost in the next few years in auto manufacturing and its supply chains, as consumers move over to Electric Vehicles (EVs). As the chart from Idaho National Laboratory confirms, EVs have relatively few parts –

Auto markets set for major disruption as Electric Vehicle sales reach tipping point Read More

No Deal Brexit still a likely option if opposition parties fail to support a new referendum

Canada’s normally pro-UK ‘Globe and Mail’ summed up the prevailing external view of Brexit last week: “We begin this editorial with an apology to you, our faithful readers. In March, we described the Brexit situation, then careening through its third year and nowhere close to resolution, as an “omnishambles. “An omnishambles is a state of

No Deal Brexit still a likely option if opposition parties fail to support a new referendum Read More

Day of reckoning approaches for US polyethylene expansions, and the European industry

Planning for future demand in petrochemicals and polymers used to be relatively easy during the BabyBoomer SuperCycle. The team would consult the latest IMF forecast for global and regional growth, and then debate the right ratio to use to calculate product demand. For polyethylene (PE), the ratio was generally just above GDP at around 1.1x,

Day of reckoning approaches for US polyethylene expansions, and the European industry Read More

Oil market weakness suggests recession now more likely than Middle East war

Oil markets remain poised between fear of recession and fear of a US attack on Iran. But gradually it seems that fears about a war are reducing, whilst President Trump’s decision to ramp up the trade war with China makes recession far more likely. The chart of Brent prices captures the current uncertainties: It shows

Oil market weakness suggests recession now more likely than Middle East war Read More

Smartphone sales continue their decline, whilst $25 smart feature phones open up new markets

Global smartphone sales have now been falling for 8 consecutive quarters, since Q3 2017. They are now down 9% from their peak, as the chart shows, based on Strategy Analytics data.  As always in a falling market, Winners and Losers are staring to appear: LOSERS Apple’s market share fell to its lowest level for 10

Smartphone sales continue their decline, whilst $25 smart feature phones open up new markets Read More

UK, EU27 and EEA businesses need to start planning for a No Deal Brexit on 31 October

New UK premier, Boris Johnson, said last week that the UK must leave the EU by 31 October, “do or die, come what may”. This means UK, EU27 and EEA companies now have less than 100 days to prepare for a UK No Deal Brexit. That’s less than 70 working days – and even less

UK, EU27 and EEA businesses need to start planning for a No Deal Brexit on 31 October Read More

London house prices edge closer to a tumble

After the excitement of Wimbledon tennis and a cricket World Cup final, Londoners were back to their favourite conversation topic last week – house prices. But now the news has become bittersweet as the price decline starts to accelerate. As the London Evening Standard headline confirms: “The London property slump has dramatically accelerated with prices

London house prices edge closer to a tumble Read More

G7 births hit new record low, below Depression level in 1933

If a country doesn’t have any babies, then in time it won’t have an economy. But that’s not how the central banks see it. For the past 20 years, through subprime and now their stimulus policies, they have believed they could effectively “print babies”.  Even today, they are still lining up to take global interest

G7 births hit new record low, below Depression level in 1933 Read More

Perennials set to defeat Fed’s attempt to maintain the stock market rally as deflation looms

Never let reality get in the way of a good theory. That’s been the policy of western central banks since the end of the BabyBoomer-led SuperCycle in 2000, when the oldest Boomer moved out of the Wealth Creator 25-54 age group and into the Perennial 55+ cohort. Inevitably this led to a slowdown in growth,

Perennials set to defeat Fed’s attempt to maintain the stock market rally as deflation looms Read More

Europe’s auto sector suffers as Dieselgate and China’s downturn hit sales

Trade wars, Dieselgate and recession risk are having a major impact on the European auto industry, as I describe in my new video interview with ICIS Chemical Business deputy editor, Will Beacham. One key pressure point is created by the downturn in China’s auto industry. As the chart shows, it has been a fabulous growth

Europe’s auto sector suffers as Dieselgate and China’s downturn hit sales Read More

2019 Global Outlook – a mid-year update: ACS webinar on Thursday

There will be no shortage of important topics to discuss on Thursday, at my regular Chemistry and the Economy: 2019 Mid-Year Update webinar for the American Chemical Society. Please join me on Thursday @ 2pm – 3pm Eastern US Time for the webinar, which will be moderated as usual by Bill Carroll, former ACS Chair. Free

2019 Global Outlook – a mid-year update: ACS webinar on Thursday Read More

Wishful thinking dominates Brexit debate as the UK heads towards No Deal on 31 October

One of the best things I learned at school was the simple mnemonic: “To ASSUME can make an ASS of U and ME” Unfortunately, most of those involved in the UK’s Brexit debate have failed to remember it.  As a result, it seems likely that the UK will end up leaving the European Union on 31

Wishful thinking dominates Brexit debate as the UK heads towards No Deal on 31 October Read More

Recession risk rises as Iran tensions and US-China trade war build

Oil markets are once again uneasily balanced between two completely different outcomes – and one again involves Iran. Back in the summer of 2008, markets were dominated by the potential for an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, as I summarised at the time: “Nothing is certain in life, except death and taxes. But it

Recession risk rises as Iran tensions and US-China trade war build Read More

Smartphone sales decline begins to impact global stock markets

The bad news continues for the world’s smartphone manufacturers and their suppliers.  And President Trump’s decision to add a 25% tariff on smartphone component imports from China from June 25 is unlikely to help. Morgan Stanley estimate it will add $160 to the current US iPhone XS price of $999, whilst a state-backed Chinese consumer boycott

Smartphone sales decline begins to impact global stock markets Read More

US-China trade war confirms political risk is now a key factor for companies and the economy

There are few real surprises in life, and President Trump’s decision to launch a full-scale trade war with China wasn’t one of them.  He had virtually promised to do this in his election campaign, as I noted here back in September 2015: “The economic success of the BabyBoomer-led SuperCycle meant that politics as such took a back

US-China trade war confirms political risk is now a key factor for companies and the economy Read More

There’s a great future for the European plastics industry in recycled plastic

Europe’s plastics industry is under major threat from the growing legislative and consumer backlash against plastic packaging. As with the global industry, its licence to operate is increasingly challenged by images of plastic rubbish polluting the world’s oceans, alongside photos of baby fish dying because their parents mistakenly fed them plastic instead of food. EU

There’s a great future for the European plastics industry in recycled plastic Read More

Uber’s $91bn IPO marks the top for today’s debt-fuelled stock markets

Uber’s IPO next month is set to effectively “ring the bell” at the top of the post-2008 equity bull market on Wall Street.  True, it is now expecting to be valued at a “bargain” $91bn, rather than the $120bn originally forecast. But as the Financial Times has noted: “Founded in 2009, it has never made

Uber’s $91bn IPO marks the top for today’s debt-fuelled stock markets Read More

The End of “Business as Usual”

In my interview for Real Vision earlier this month, (where the world’s most successful investors share their thoughts on the markets and the biggest investment themes), I look at what data from the global chemical industry is telling us about the outlook for the global economy and suggest it could be set for a downturn. “We look at

The End of “Business as Usual” Read More

Most businesses were nowhere near Ready for Brexit last Friday – we mustn’t make the same mistake again

Thank goodness for backbench MPs and the European Union. Without their efforts, the UK would by now have left the EU without any trade deals, or ongoing relationship with it’s biggest export market.  And as the Duke of Wellington said in another context, “It was a damn close-run thing”: In a historic vote, MPs decided

Most businesses were nowhere near Ready for Brexit last Friday – we mustn’t make the same mistake again Read More

Don’t get carried away by Beijing’s stimulus

Residential construction work in Qingdao, China. Government stimulus is unlikely to deliver the economic boost of previous years © Bloomberg China’s falling producer price index suggests it could soon be exporting deflation, as I describe in my latest post for the Financial Times, published on the BeyondBrics blog On the surface, this year’s jump in China’s total

Don’t get carried away by Beijing’s stimulus Read More

Businesses thrilled by Brexit uncertainty: “It’s exhilarating” says small business owner

With the European Commission saying that a No Deal is now “likely“, small businesses across the UK and EU27 have begun to look forward to the opportunities that it will create, as this 1 April report from Ready for Brexit suggests. Businesses across Europe are thrilled by the uncertainty of Brexit. “We’re absolutely loving it”

Businesses thrilled by Brexit uncertainty: “It’s exhilarating” says small business owner Read More

Stormy weather ahead for chemicals

Four serious challenges are on the horizon for the global petrochemical industry as I describe in my latest analysis for ICIS Chemical Business and in a podcast interview with Will Beacham of ICIS. The first is the growing risk of recession, with key markets such as autos, electronics and housing all showing signs of major

Stormy weather ahead for chemicals Read More

$60bn opportunity opens up for plastics industry as need to eliminate single-use packaging grows

150 businesses representing over 20% of the global plastic packaging market have now agreed to start building a circular economy for plastics with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. As a first step, Coca-Cola has revealed that it produced 3MT of plastic packaging in 2017 – equivalent to 200k bottles/minute, around 20% of the 500bn PET bottles used every

$60bn opportunity opens up for plastics industry as need to eliminate single-use packaging grows Read More

Ageing Perennials set to negate central bank stimulus as recession approaches

The world’s best leading indicator for the global economy is still firmly signalling recession.  That’s the key conclusion from the chart above, showing latest data on global chemical industry Capacity Utilisation (CU%) from the American Chemistry Council. The logic behind the indicator is compelling: Chemicals are one of the world’s largest industries, and also one

Ageing Perennials set to negate central bank stimulus as recession approaches Read More

Companies and investors have just 30 working days left to prepare for a No Deal Brexit

Companies across the UK and EU27 are realising there are now just 30 working days until the UK leaves the EU on 29 March, and starts to trade on WTO terms.  If this happens, every supply chain involving a movement between the UK and EU27 will change. And many supply chains involving movements outside the

Companies and investors have just 30 working days left to prepare for a No Deal Brexit Read More

The BoE’s pre-emptive strike is not without risk

The Financial Times has kindly printed my letter below, arguing that it seems the default answer to almost any economic question has now become “more stimulus” from the central bank. After 15 years of subprime lending and then quantitative easing, last week’s warning from the Bank of England suggests there are fewer and fewer economic

The BoE’s pre-emptive strike is not without risk Read More

IKEA heads into the circular world with furniture subscription trial

“Once upon a time, Granny and Grandad used to go to a large shop on the motorway to buy their furniture. They used to stagger around carrying Billy bookshelves and Dombas wardrobes, before treating themselves to Swedish meatballs in the canteen. And then Grandad would spend the rest of the weekend trying to assemble the

IKEA heads into the circular world with furniture subscription trial Read More

Fed’s magic money tree hopes to overcome smartphone sales downturn and global recession risk

Last November, I wrote one of my “most-read posts”, titled Global smartphone recession confirms consumer downturn. The only strange thing was that most people read it several weeks later on 3 January, after Apple announced its China sales had fallen due to the economic downturn. Why did Apple and financial markets only then discover that smartphone sales

Fed’s magic money tree hopes to overcome smartphone sales downturn and global recession risk Read More

Flexible working is key to reversing today’s collapse in fertility rates

Women in most parts of the world are not having enough children to replace our population. This is one of the great issues of our time, but is hardly ever discussed. Yet the issue is very topical, with Chinese births falling to a 60-year low last year.  Only 15.23 million babies were born, the lowest

Flexible working is key to reversing today’s collapse in fertility rates Read More

No Deal Brexit remains UK law unless MPs reverse their previous votes

“That couldn’t happen” are probably the 3 most dangerous words in the English language. They mean “I don’t want to think about something that might be painful“. So if you hear MPs saying a “No Deal Brexit can’t happen“, ignore them. They are wrong. ‘NO DEAL’ BREXIT IS THE LAW OF THE LAND The issue

No Deal Brexit remains UK law unless MPs reverse their previous votes Read More

Stock markets risk Wile E. Coyote fall despite Powell’s rush to support the S&P 500

How can companies and investors avoid losing money as the global economy goes into a China-led recession?  That’s the key question as we enter 2019.  We have reached a fork in the road: Since 2008, Western central bankers have focused on supporting stock markets But the bursting of China’s shadow banking bubble means this cannot continue for

Stock markets risk Wile E. Coyote fall despite Powell’s rush to support the S&P 500 Read More

Chart of the Year – China’s shadow banking collapse means deflation may be round the corner

Last year it was Bitcoin, in 2016 it was the near-doubling in US 10-year interest rates, and in 2015 was the oil price fall.  This year, once again, there is really only one candidate for ‘Chart of the Year’ – it has to be the collapse of China’s shadow banking bubble: It averaged around $20bn/month

Chart of the Year – China’s shadow banking collapse means deflation may be round the corner Read More

BASF’s second profit warning highlights scale of the downturn now underway

The chemical industry is easily the best leading indicator for the global economy.  And thanks to Kevin Swift and his team at the American Chemistry Council, we already have data showing developments up to October, as the chart shows. It confirms that consensus hopes for a “synchronised global recovery” at the beginning of the year

BASF’s second profit warning highlights scale of the downturn now underway Read More

Chemistry & the Economy: 2019 Outlook

There will be no shortage of important topics to discuss on Thursday, at my regular Chemistry and the Economy: 2019 Outlook webinar for the American Chemical Society. Please join me on Thursday @ 2pm – 3pm Eastern US Time for the webinar, which will be moderated as usual by Bill Carroll, former ACS Chair. Free

Chemistry & the Economy: 2019 Outlook Read More

Asian downturn worsens, bringing global recession nearer

The chemical industry is the best leading indicator for the global economy.  And my visit to Singapore last week confirmed that the downturn underway in the Asian market creates major risks for developed and emerging economies alike. The problem is focused on China’s likely move into recession, now its stimulus policies are finally being unwound. 

Asian downturn worsens, bringing global recession nearer Read More

Your ‘A-Z Guide’ to the Brexit Negotiations

“The UK is now facing a national crisis”, according to Margaret Thatcher’s former Defence Secretary, Michael Portillo, speaking to a dinner in London on Thursday night.  Brexit continues to tear the UK apart, and places the economy at greater and greater risk. On Thursday, premier Theresa May had unveiled her draft Withdrawal Agreement with the

Your ‘A-Z Guide’ to the Brexit Negotiations Read More

Global smartphone recession confirms consumer downturn

Q3 smartphone sales data show the global market in recession, as Strategy Analytics confirmed: “The global smartphone market has now declined for four consecutive quarters and is effectively in a recession.” The warning signs began in Q1, when the market plateaued for the first time, as discussed here in May: “The global smartphone market has

Global smartphone recession confirms consumer downturn Read More

Chemical output signals trouble for global economy

A petrochemical plant on the outskirts of Shanghai. Chinese chemical industry production has been negative on a year-to-date basis since February Falling output in China and slowing growth globally suggest difficult years ahead, as I describe in my latest post for the Financial Times, published on the BeyondBrics blog Chemicals are the best leading indicator for the

Chemical output signals trouble for global economy Read More

“What could possibly go wrong?”

I well remember the questions a year ago, after I published my annual Budget Outlook, ‘Budgeting for the Great Unknown in 2018 – 2020‘.  Many readers found it difficult to believe that global interest rates could rise significantly, or that China’s economy would slow and that protectionism would rise under the influence of Populist politicians. […]

The post “What could possibly go wrong?” appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

“What could possibly go wrong?” Read More

Rising interest rates, volatile exchange rates, high oil prices and plastic waste challenge aromatics industry

Fears are rising about the risks of recession, as I discuss in a new one-page summary of the key issues facing the aromatics industry, ‘What does the future hold for Aromatics?‘.  Please click here to download it. These issues will also be key topics at next month’s 17th World Aromatics and Derivatives Conference, jointly organised with ICIS, […]

The post Rising interest rates, volatile exchange rates, high oil prices and plastic waste challenge aromatics industry appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

Rising interest rates, volatile exchange rates, high oil prices and plastic waste challenge aromatics industry Read More

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 […]

The post Petrochemicals must face up to multiple challenges appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

Petrochemicals must face up to multiple challenges Read More

Is your business Ready for Brexit?

Time is running out for the UK government to agree a Brexit deal with Europe.  As my new analysis for ICIS Chemical Business highlights, companies need to move quickly to prepare for the “No Deal” scenario Legendary England footballer Gary Lineker best summarised the general sense of disbelief over the state of 
the Brexit negotiations when […]

The post Is your business Ready for Brexit? appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

Is your business Ready for Brexit? Read More

Boomer SuperCycle unique in human history – Deutsche Bank

“The 1950-2000 period is like no other in human or financial history in terms of population growth, economic growth, inflation or asset prices.” This quote isn’t from ‘Boom, Gloom and the New Normal: How Western BabyBoomers are Changing Demand Patterns, Again‘, the very popular ebook that John Richardson and I published in 2011.  Nor is […]

The post Boomer SuperCycle unique in human history – Deutsche Bank appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

Boomer SuperCycle unique in human history – Deutsche Bank Read More

Ethane price hikes, China tariffs, hit US PE producers as global market weakens

Sadly, my July forecast that US-China tariffs could lead to a global polyethylene price war seems to be coming true. As I have argued since March 2014 (US boom is a dangerous game), it was always going to be difficult for US producers to sell their vastly increased output.  The expansions were of course delayed […]

The post Ethane price hikes, China tariffs, hit US PE producers as global market weakens appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

Ethane price hikes, China tariffs, hit US PE producers as global market weakens Read More

Why everyone ignored my warnings ahead of the financial crisis

It’s 10 years since my forecast of a global financial crisis came true, as Lehman Brothers collapsed.  I had warned of this consistently here in the blog, and in the Letters column of the Financial Times. But, of course, nobody wanted to listen whilst the party was going strong.  As the FT’s world trade editor wrote […]

The post Why everyone ignored my warnings ahead of the financial crisis appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

Why everyone ignored my warnings ahead of the financial crisis Read More

Financial crises and the five stages of loss

The Financial Times has kindly printed my letter as their lead letter, arguing that the rise of the populists emphasises the risk of continuing to deny the impact of today’s ageing populations on the economy. Sir,  Martin Wolf’s sobering analysis of policymakers’ post-crisis decision to “go back to the past”, ( “Why so little has changed since […]

The post Financial crises and the five stages of loss appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

Financial crises and the five stages of loss Read More

World Aromatics Conference focuses on sustainability, trade war and oil price challenges

Our 17th World Aromatics and Derivatives conference takes place on 7/8 November in Amsterdam.  You need to register now as the Early Bird discount ends on Friday. Co-organised with ICIS, it provides an excellent opportunity for delegates to meet and exchange views in the critical end-of-year period. It features the usual strong line-up of speakers: […]

The post World Aromatics Conference focuses on sustainability, trade war and oil price challenges appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

World Aromatics Conference focuses on sustainability, trade war and oil price challenges Read More

Political and economic risks rise as US mid-term elections near

This is the Labor Day weekend in the USA – the traditional start of the mid-term election campaign.  And just as in September 2016, the Real Clear Politics poll shows that most voters feel their country is going in the wrong direction.  The demographic influences that I highlighted then are also becoming ever-more important with time: […]

The post Political and economic risks rise as US mid-term elections near appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

Political and economic risks rise as US mid-term elections near Read More

Trump’s auto trade war adds to US demographic and debt headwinds

President Trump’s auto trade tariffs are bad news for the US and global auto industry, as the chart highlights: It shows H1 sales in the 7 major markets, which account for 87% of global volume Sales in China have risen nearly 4x since 2007 from 3.1m to 11.8m this year Sales in the other 6 […]

The post Trump’s auto trade war adds to US demographic and debt headwinds appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

Trump’s auto trade war adds to US demographic and debt headwinds Read More

High-flying “story stocks” hit air pockets as credit finally tightens

“Nobody could ever have seen this coming” is the normal comment after sudden share price falls.  And its been earning its money over the past week as “suddenly” share prices of some of the major “story stocks” on the US market have hit air pockets, as the chart shows: Facebook was the biggest “surprise”, falling […]

The post High-flying “story stocks” hit air pockets as credit finally tightens appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

High-flying “story stocks” hit air pockets as credit finally tightens Read More

London house prices slip as supply/demand balances change

London house prices are “falling at the fastest rate in almost a decade” according to major property lender, Nationwide.  And almost 40% of new-build sales were to bulk buyers at discounts of up to 30%, according of researchers, Molior.  As the CEO of builders Crest Nicholson told the Financial Times:  “We did this sale because we […]

The post London house prices slip as supply/demand balances change appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

London house prices slip as supply/demand balances change Read More

UK faces ‘make or break summer’ as ‘No Deal’ Brexit risk rises

Last week, the UK’s Foreign Secretary, its chief Brexit negotiator and several junior ministers, resigned.  President Trump gave an interview attacking the UK prime minister, Theresa May, and suggesting her policies would “kill” any future trade deal with the US.  And the EU 27’s main negotiator on the critical Brexit issue, Michel Barnier, warned: “On both […]

The post UK faces ‘make or break summer’ as ‘No Deal’ Brexit risk rises appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

UK faces ‘make or break summer’ as ‘No Deal’ Brexit risk rises Read More

US-China tariffs could lead to global Polyethylene price war

I was interviewed on Friday about the likely impact of President Trump’s trade wars on the global chemical industry by Will Beacham, deputy editor of ICIS Chemical Business. His interview is below. The introduction on Friday of trade tariffs by China and the US is the first step in a trade war that could turn into […]

The post US-China tariffs could lead to global Polyethylene price war appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

US-China tariffs could lead to global Polyethylene price war Read More

The blog’s 14th birthday – and the New Normal world it predicted has arrived

The blog has now been running for 14 years since the first post was written from Thailand at the end of June 2007.  And quite a lot has happened since then: There was the 2008 financial crisis, one of the blog’s early forecasting successes This led to the publication of ‘Boom, Gloom and the New

The post The blog’s 14th birthday – and the New Normal world it predicted has arrived appeared first on Chemicals and the Economy.

The blog’s 14th birthday – and the New Normal world it predicted has arrived Read More

Airbus warns of “dawning reality” there may be no Brexit deal

Suddenly, businesses across Europe are waking up to the realisation that the UK is currently on course to leave the European Union (EU) on 29 March next year, without a deal on trade and customs.  As Katherine Bennett, the UK boss of aerospace giant, Airbus, warned on Friday: “This is not project fear, this is […]

The post Airbus warns of “dawning reality” there may be no Brexit deal appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

Airbus warns of “dawning reality” there may be no Brexit deal Read More

Plastics recycling paradigm shift will create Winners and Losers

My new analysis for iCIS Chemical Business highlights the paradigm shift now underway in the plastics industry. A paradigm shift is underway in the plastics industry as public concern mounts over the impact of plastic waste on the oceans and the environment. For 30 years, plastics producers have primarily focused upstream on securing cost-competitive feedstock supply. […]

The post Plastics recycling paradigm shift will create Winners and Losers appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

Plastics recycling paradigm shift will create Winners and Losers Read More

2018 Global Outlook – a mid-year update: ACS webinar on Thursday

There will be no shortage of important topics to discuss on Thursday, at my regular Chemistry and the Economy: 2018 Mid-Year Update webinar for the American Chemical Society. Please join me on Thursday @ 2pm – 3pm Eastern US Time for the webinar, which will be moderated as usual by Bill Carroll, former ACS Chair. Free […]

The post 2018 Global Outlook – a mid-year update: ACS webinar on Thursday appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

2018 Global Outlook – a mid-year update: ACS webinar on Thursday Read More

Time to recognise the economic impact of ageing populations

Is global economic growth really controlled by monetary policy and interest rates?  Can you create constant growth simply by adjusting government tax and spending policy?  Do we know enough about how the economy operates to be able to do this?  Or has something more fundamental been at work in recent decades, to create the extraordinary […]

The post Time to recognise the economic impact of ageing populations appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

Time to recognise the economic impact of ageing populations Read More

Financial markets party as global trade wars begin

More people left poverty in the past 70 years than in the whole of history, thanks to the BabyBoomer-led economic SuperCycle.  World Bank and OECD data show that less than 10% of the world’s population now live below the extreme poverty line of $1.90/day, compared to 55% in 1950. Globalisation has been a key element in […]

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Financial markets party as global trade wars begin Read More

China’s lending bubble is history

As China’s shadow banking is reined in, the impact on the global economy is already clear, as I describe in my latest post for the Financial Times, published on the BeyondBrics blog China’s shadow banking sector has been a major source of speculative lending to the global economy. But 2018 has seen it entering its […]

The post China’s lending bubble is history appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

China’s lending bubble is history Read More

Oil prices flag recession risk as Iranian geopolitical tensions rise

Today, we have “lies, fake news and statistics” rather than the old phrase “lies, damned lies and statistics”. But the general principle is still the same.  Cynical players simply focus on the numbers that promote their argument, and ignore or challenge everything else. The easiest way for them to manipulate the statistics is to ignore […]

The post Oil prices flag recession risk as Iranian geopolitical tensions rise appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

Oil prices flag recession risk as Iranian geopolitical tensions rise Read More

US ethylene prices near all-time lows as over-capacity arrives

US ethylene spot prices are tumbling as the major new shale gas expansions come on line, as the chart based on ICIS pricing data confirms: They began the year at $617/t, but have since more than halved to $270/t on Friday They are only around 10% higher than their all-time low of $240/t in September […]

The post US ethylene prices near all-time lows as over-capacity arrives appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

US ethylene prices near all-time lows as over-capacity arrives Read More

Apple, Xiaomi squeeze smartphone mid-market as sales plateau

The global smartphone market has finally gone ex-growth as China’s slowdown continues.  In turn, the market is starting to polarise – with Apple pushing further up-market whilst Chinese brands such as Xiaomi focus on volume.  Samsung’s middle market positioning looks increasingly under threat: The chart shows Q1 sales for Samsung, Apple, the 3 top Chinese […]

The post Apple, Xiaomi squeeze smartphone mid-market as sales plateau appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

Apple, Xiaomi squeeze smartphone mid-market as sales plateau Read More

Chemicals flag rising risk of synchronised global slowdown

Chemicals are easily the best leading indicator for the global economy.  And if the global economy was really in recovery mode, as policymakers believe, then the chemical industry would be the first to know – because of its early position in the value chain. Instead, it has a different message as the chart confirms: It […]

The post Chemicals flag rising risk of synchronised global slowdown appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

Chemicals flag rising risk of synchronised global slowdown Read More

The tide of global debt has peaked: 8 charts suggest what may happen next, as the tide retreats

The results of the central bankers’ great experiment with money printing are now in, and they are fairly depressing, as the charts above confirm: On the left are the IMF’s annual forecasts from 2010 – 2018 (dotted lines) and the actual result (black) Until recently, the Fund was convinced the world would soon see 5% […]

The post The tide of global debt has peaked: 8 charts suggest what may happen next, as the tide retreats appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

The tide of global debt has peaked: 8 charts suggest what may happen next, as the tide retreats Read More

Saudi oil policy risks creating perfect storm for Aramco flotation

Good business strategies generally create good investments over the longer term. And so Aramco needs to ensure it has the best possible strategies, if it wants to maximise the outcome from its planned $2tn flotation. Unfortunately, the current oil price strategy seems more likely to damage its valuation, by being based on 3 questionable assumptions: Oil […]

The post Saudi oil policy risks creating perfect storm for Aramco flotation appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

Saudi oil policy risks creating perfect storm for Aramco flotation Read More

Trump’s trade war should set warning bells ringing for every company and investor

There should be no surprise that President Trump has launched his trade war with China.  The real surprise is that financial markets, and business leaders, are so surprised it is happening.  He was, after all, elected on a platform that called for a trade war, as I noted originally back in November 2016 – and […]

The post Trump’s trade war should set warning bells ringing for every company and investor appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

Trump’s trade war should set warning bells ringing for every company and investor Read More

2018 will see Winners and Losers appear in plastics markets

Two major challenges face petrochemical and polymer producers and consumers in 2018: The likely disruption created by the arrival of the ethylene/polyethylene expansions in the US The growth of the circular economy and the need to dramatically increase recycling capacity My new interview with Will Beacham, deputy editor of ICIS Chemical Business, focuses on both […]

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2018 will see Winners and Losers appear in plastics markets Read More

Trump’s trade war hits Wall Street as tech downturn begins

President Trump no longer tweets regularly about new record highs for US financial markets. The tweets were a core activity in the first year of his Presidency, when he was still feeling his way into the job. But now, as last week’s sackings of his Secretary of State and National Security Advisor confirm, his focus has returned […]

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Trump’s trade war hits Wall Street as tech downturn begins Read More

Goodbye to “business as usual” model for plastics

Polymer markets face two major challenges in coming months. The most immediate is the arrival of the major US shale gas-based ethylene and polyethylene expansions. The longer-term, but equally critical challenge, comes from growing public concern over plastic waste, particularly in the ocean. The EU has set out its vision for a new plastics economy, where: “All plastic packaging is reusable or […]

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Goodbye to “business as usual” model for plastics Read More

West’s household spending heads for decline as population ages and trade war looms

As promised last week, today’s post looks at the impact of the ageing of the BabyBoomers on the prospects for economic growth. The fact that people are living up to a third longer than in 1950 should be something to celebrate.  But as I noted in my Financial Times letter, policymakers are in denial about the importance of […]

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West’s household spending heads for decline as population ages and trade war looms Read More

West faces “demographic deficit” as populations age

Rising life expectancy, and falling fertility rates, mean that a third of the Western population is now in the low spending 55-plus age group.  Given that consumer spending is around two-thirds of the economy in developed countries, the above charts provide critically important information on the prospects for economic growth. They show official data for household […]

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West faces “demographic deficit” as populations age Read More

Global smartphone sales slide 9% in Q4, as China tumbles 16%

Global smartphone sales have seen major growth until recently as consumers fell in love with going mobile, as the chart shows: In the critical Q4 period they jumped from 290m in 2013 to 380m in 2014, 405m in 2015 and 439m in 2016 But they then fell 9% in Q4 last year, according to Strategy […]

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Global smartphone sales slide 9% in Q4, as China tumbles 16% Read More

Older workers are looking for something more

The Financial Times has kindly printed my letter arguing that we need new policies to help people adapt to their extra decade or more life expectancy. Sir, There is another angle to Janan Ganesh’s interesting exploration of whether “Liberals risk the charge of complacency” (February 20). This is the question of why the policy elite has […]

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Older workers are looking for something more Read More

China’s role in market volatility – Beijing’s shifting priorities raise questions over assumptions of global growth

Commentators have confused cause with effect when analysing this month’s sudden downturn in financial markets, as I describe in my latest post for the Financial Times, published on the BeyondBrics blog Surprise and confusion seem to have been the main reactions to this month’s sudden downturn in western financial markets. Yet across the world in […]

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China’s role in market volatility – Beijing’s shifting priorities raise questions over assumptions of global growth Read More

Economy faces slowdown as oil/commodity prices slide

Oil and commodity markets long ago lost contact with the real world of supply and demand. Instead, they have been dominated by financial speculation, fuelled by the vast amounts of liquidity pumped out by the central banks.  The chart above from John Kemp at Reuters gives the speculative positioning in the oil complex as published […]

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Economy faces slowdown as oil/commodity prices slide Read More

London house prices risk perfect storm as interest rates rise

2000 should have been the natural end of the BabyBoomer-led economic SuperCycle. The oldest Boomer (born in 1946) was about to leave the Wealth Creator 25 – 54 age group that drives consumer spending and hence economic growth.  And since 1970, Boomer women’s fertility rates had been below replacement level (2.1 babies/woman).  So relatively fewer young people were […]

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London house prices risk perfect storm as interest rates rise Read More

The global economy and the US$ – an alternative view

Every New Year starts with optimism about the global economy.  But as Stanley Fischer, then vice chair of the US Federal Reserve, noted back in August 2014:  “Year after year we have had to explain from mid-year on why the global growth rate has been lower than predicted as little as two quarters back.” Will […]

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The global economy and the US$ – an alternative view Read More

US Treasury benchmark yield heads to 4% as 30-year downtrend ends

The US 10-year Treasury bond is the benchmark for global interest rates and stock markets.  And for the past 30 years it has been heading steadily downwards as the chart shows: US inflation rates finally peaked at 13.6% in 1980 (having been just 1.3% in 1960) as the BabyBoomers began to move en masse into the […]

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US Treasury benchmark yield heads to 4% as 30-year downtrend ends Read More

US PE exports on front line as Trump changes trade policies

It is almost a year since Donald Trump became President.  And whilst he has not followed through on many of his promises, he has indeed introduced the major policy changes that I began to discuss in September 2015, when I first suggested he could win the election and that the Republicans could control Congress: “In the […]

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US PE exports on front line as Trump changes trade policies Read More

The return of volatility is the key market risk for 2018

We are living in a strange world. As in 2007 – 2008, financial news continues to be euphoric, yet the general news is increasingly gloomy. As Nobel Prizewinner Richard Thaler, has warned, “We seem to be living in the riskiest moment of our lives, and yet the stock market seems to be napping.” Both views […]

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The return of volatility is the key market risk for 2018 Read More

Chart of the Year: Bitcoin, the logical end for stimulus policies

Last year it was the near-doubling in US 10-year interest rates.  In 2015, it was the oil price fall.  This year, there is really only one candidate for ‘Chart of the Year’ – it has to be Bitcoin: It was trading at around $1000 at the start of 2017 and had reached $5000 by August […]

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Chart of the Year: Bitcoin, the logical end for stimulus policies Read More

Sustainability now the key driver for plastics industry profits

‘What is this block of waste plastic doing on an Arctic ice-floe’, thousand of miles from where it was manufactured?  Even more worrying is the question, ‘what will happen to it next?’  As David Attenborough’s ‘Blue Planet II‘ programmes have shown, plastic can break down into micro-particles after it has been used.  And these micro-particles […]

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Sustainability now the key driver for plastics industry profits Read More

Anti-pollution drive hits China’s role as global growth engine

China is no longer seeking ‘growth at any cost’, with global implications, as I describe in my latest post for the Financial Times, published on the BeyondBrics blog A pedestrian covers up against pollution in Beijing © Bloomberg China’s President Xi Jinping faced two existential threats to Communist party rule when he took office 5 […]

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Anti-pollution drive hits China’s role as global growth engine Read More

Central banks’ reliance on defunct economic theory makes people worry their children will be worse off than themselves

“Average UK wages in 2022 could still be lower than in 2008”  UK Office for Budget Responsibility While Western stock markets boom under the influence of central bank money-printing, wages for ordinary people are not doing so well.  So it is no wonder that Populism is rising, as voters worry their children will be worse […]

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Central banks’ reliance on defunct economic theory makes people worry their children will be worse off than themselves Read More

Difficult times ahead for US polyethylene exports as business models change

This wasn’t the chart that companies and investors expected to see when they were busy finalising $bns of investment in new US ethylene and polyethylene (PE) capacity back in 2013-4.  They were working on 3 core assumptions, which they were sure would make these investments vastly profitable: Oil prices would always be above $100/bbl and […]

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Difficult times ahead for US polyethylene exports as business models change Read More

China’s central bank governor warns of ‘Minsky Moment’ risk

The world is coming to the end of probably the greatest financial bubble ever seen.  Since the financial crisis began in 2008, central banks in China, the USA, Europe, the UK and Japan have created over $30tn of debt. China has created more than half of this debt as the chart shows, and its total debt […]

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China’s central bank governor warns of ‘Minsky Moment’ risk Read More

US tax cuts will fail as Trump’s demographic deficit replaces Reagan’s demographic dividend

No country in the world now has a top quality pension system.  That’s the conclusion from the latest Report by pensions consultants Melbourne Mercer.  As the chart above shows: Denmark and The Netherlands have fallen out of the top category In the G7 wealthy nations: Canada is in category B; Germany and UK in C+; […]

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US tax cuts will fail as Trump’s demographic deficit replaces Reagan’s demographic dividend Read More

World Aromatics Conference focuses on key industry challenges

Our 16th World Aromatics and Derivatives conference takes place on Wednesday/Thursday in Amsterdam. Co-organised with ICIS, it provides an excellent opportunity for delegates to meet and exchange views in the critical end-of-year period.  It features the usual strong line-up of speakers: Ronald Doesburg, GM for Shell’s Base Chemicals business, will describe how innovation is driving new […]

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World Aromatics Conference focuses on key industry challenges Read More

Saudi Arabia’s ‘Vision 2030’ is looking a lot less clear

Saudi Arabia’s U-turn to revive oil output quotas is not working and fails to address the changing future of oil demand, as I describe in my latest post for the Financial Times, published on the BeyondBrics blog Saudi Arabia’s move into recession comes at an unfortunate time for its new Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman […]

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Saudi Arabia’s ‘Vision 2030’ is looking a lot less clear Read More

Budgeting for the Great Unknown in 2018 – 2020

“There isn’t anybody who knows what is going to happen in the next 12 months.  We’ve never been here before.  Things are out of control.  I have never seen a situation like it.“ This comment from former UK Finance Minister, Ken Clarke, aptly summarises the uncertainty facing companies, investors and individuals as we look ahead […]

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Budgeting for the Great Unknown in 2018 – 2020 Read More

The Great Reckoning for policymakers’ failures has begun

Next week, I will publish my annual Budget Outlook, covering the 2018-2020 period. The aim, as always, will be to challenge conventional wisdom when this seems to be heading in the wrong direction.  Before publishing the new Outlook each year, I always like to review my previous forecast. Past performance may not be a perfect […]

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The Great Reckoning for policymakers’ failures has begun Read More

Brexit disaster looms as UK government power struggle erupts

UK voters were never very bothered about membership of the European Union (EU) before the Brexit vote last year.  Opinion polls instead showed they shared the general feeling of voters everywhere – that their country was heading in the wrong direction, and it was time for a change.  Now, last week’s Conservative Party conference showed […]

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Brexit disaster looms as UK government power struggle erupts Read More

Hurricane Harvey will turbocharge move to the circular economy

300,000 homes and half a million cars have been destroyed by Hurricane Harvey.  And in terms of business, it is often forgotten that Houston is home to more Fortune 500 companies than any other metro area than New York.  The damage will take years to repair, as families have to regroup and re-establish their lives […]

Hurricane Harvey will turbocharge move to the circular economy Read More

Baby boomers’ spending decline has hit demand and inflation

The Financial Times has kindly printed my letter below, wondering why the US Federal Reserve still fails to appreciate the impact of the ageing BabyBoomers on the economy Sir, It was surprising to read that the US Federal Reserve is still puzzled by today’s persistently low levels of inflation, given that the impact of the ageing […]

Baby boomers’ spending decline has hit demand and inflation Read More

President Xi focuses on pollution, not growth, as key Party Congress nears

Imagine living in the capital city of a major country, and suffering the level of pollution shown in the above photo on a regular basis.  We used the photo in chapter 6 of Boom, Gloom and the New Normal when we highlighted how pollution was inevitably going to move up the political agenda in China. Controversial at the […]

President Xi focuses on pollution, not growth, as key Party Congress nears Read More

Oil market supply/demand finally begins to matter again as commodity funds withdraw

Its been a long time since oil market supply/demand was based on physical barrels rather than financial flows:   First there was the subprime period, when the Fed artificially boosted demand and caused Brent to hit $147/bbl   Then there was QE, where central banks gave free cash to commodity hedge funds and led Brent to hit […]

Oil market supply/demand finally begins to matter again as commodity funds withdraw Read More