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Combined EU, US, China auto sales edge up 4% in 2012

Autos are now the largest single global market for chemical and polymer sales, after the slowdown in US and European housing. Each US auto is worth $3636 to the industry, according to American Chemistry Council data. Thus the US market was worth a re…
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World Bank warns "real-side recovery is weak"

The risk of global recession continues to rise, with the World Bank last week warning that “the real-side recovery is weak and business sector confidence is low”. Spain, the world’s 12th largest economy, provides a good example of how the problems ar…
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Global economy faces difficult 2013

Its now 4 years since the blog published its first New Year Outlook in ICB. Then it was in a small minority when advising CEOs “to prepare for a marathon not a sprint” in dealing with the financial crisis. And very few accepted its suggestion that it…
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EU chloralkali markets weaken in H2

Chlorine and caustic soda production are a key indicator of economic growth. They have been produced in large volumes for over a century, and have a extremely wide range of uses from pharmaceutical and aluminium production to detergents and disinfecti…
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Cracks appear in crude oil pricing

Crude oil and the major commodity markets have been a “fool’s paradise” in the past 4 years, created by the arrival of the central banks’ massive liquidity programmes. Pension funds rushed to buy, in the belief they would be a “store of value”. Hedge…
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China’s growth slows now Party Congress has ended

China, like the USA, had a leadership transition in November. And, of course, this led to led to some effective ‘massaging’ of the economy in the preceding months. As the blog noted in November, it was no coincidence that bank lending jumped $1.1tn b…
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Volatility rises as players bet on recovery or recession

Nobody ever said that financial and chemical were meant to be easy to understand. But current developments are clearly far more complex than normal. We have grown used to manipulation by policymakers, via their various quantitative easing (QE) progra…
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Oil prices at record level for 2nd successive year

Crude oil prices remained at a record level for the second year running in 2012. As the chart shows, Brent prices averaged $112/bbl versus $111/bbl in 2011 (blue line). By comparison, 2008 averaged $97/bbl, or $102 if adjusted for inflation (red):
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US auto buyers prefer new to old, as used market tightens

December saw continued strong volume in US auto markets, with sales (red line) at pre-Crisis levels for the month. The key driver is the need to replace ageing vehicles, but manufacturers were also generous with rebates and credit offers to help clear…
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New Year sees markets in optimistic mood

New Year is a traditional moment for price increases. And last week didn’t disappoint, with Brent crude oil jumping $3/bbl. Whilst financial markets soared globally on hopes that the US ‘fiscal cliff’ deal might be a sign that policymakers will final…
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