Financial markets party whilst petchems remain weak

Financial markets continued their start of quarter rally last week. But their volatility amazes even seasoned observers. The US Dow Jones Index has moved at least 100 points in 57 of the last 58 days, for example, whilst crude oil jumped $3/bbl on Friday alone.

Of course, the continued correlation between stock and oil markets is ultimately contradictory. Higher oil and feedstock prices can only do further damage to the prospects for economic recovery in the real economy, in which we all operate. The blog discusses this in the above short interview, recorded with ICIS’s John Baker at EPCA.

But the volatility is likely to continue, as long as markets remain dominated by the high frequency traders and their computer games. Reassuringly, though, there are signs that next month’s G-20 meeting might ban at least some of this dysfunctional trading activity. The blog will tip its hat to Andy Haldane at the Bank of England, and his colleagues, if this can be achieved.

The blog was also reassured by news that German chemical firms are studying “scenarios for a recession” as a result of the current financial market turbulence. Henrik Meincke at Germany’s VCI chemicals trade group told ICIS that “Germany’s chemical industry would be prepared” should a recession occur.

ICIS pricing comments this week, and price movements since the IeC Downturn Alert launched on 29 April, are below:

Benzene NWE, down 28%. “An air of nervousness was compounding the softer sentiment across the benzene market, as was the strict inventory management currently in place across the aromatics chain and downstream markets.”
HDPE USA export, down 25%. “Prices continued to fall during the week. One source suggested some prices have been so low, producers might be trying to sell into China.”
Naphtha Europe, down 16%. “Demand remains poor from both the petrochemical industry and the gasoline sector.”
Brent crude oil, down 13%.
S&P 500 Index down 10%.
PTA China, down 8%. “Buyers had no confidence to purchase cargoes because of poor downstream sales.”