Brent oil prices

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

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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

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

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Supply chains set to transform as companies start to reshore 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 […]

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Oil prices flag recession risk as Iranian geopolitical tensions rise 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 […]

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Chemicals flag rising risk of synchronised global slowdown 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 […]

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Saudi oil policy risks creating perfect storm for Aramco flotation 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

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

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

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

“Exponentially rapidly rising or falling markets usually go further than you think, but they do not correct by going sideways”

Companies and investors have some big decisions ahead of them as we start the second half of the year.  They can be summed up in one super-critical question: “Do they believe that global reflation is finally now underway?” The arguments in favour of this analysis were given last week by European Central Bank President, Mario Draghi: […]

“Exponentially rapidly rising or falling markets usually go further than you think, but they do not correct by going sideways” Read More

Oil price weakness will unmask reflation and recovery myth

Oil markets have been at the centre of the recent myth that economic recovery was finally underway.  The theory was that rising inflation, caused by rising oil prices, meant consumer demand was increasing.  In turn, this meant that the central banks had finally achieved their aim of restoring economic growth via their zero interest rate […]

Oil price weakness will unmask reflation and recovery myth Read More

Metastable markets at risk from impact of US, UK political stalemate

We are living in very uncertain times, where the only certainty is that there is no “business as usual” option for the future.  One sign of this is that the extraordinary has become ordinary : □   The FBI appear convinced Russia’s government targeted last year’s US elections: US President Trump and his former FBI head […]

Metastable markets at risk from impact of US, UK political stalemate Read More

Sinopec’s results confirm China’s focus on employment and self-sufficiency, not profit

China’s strategies for oil, refining and petrochemical production are very different from those in the West, as analysis of Sinopec’s Annual and 20-F Reports confirms.  As the above chart shows, it doesn’t aim to maximise profit: □  Since 1998, it has spent $45bn on capex in the refining sector, and $38bn in the chemicals sector □ […]

Sinopec’s results confirm China’s focus on employment and self-sufficiency, not profit Read More

Oil prices under pressure as US oil/product exports ramp up

On Monday, I discussed how OPEC abandoned Saudi Oil Minister Naimi’s market share strategy during H2 last year. Naimi’s strategy had stopped the necessary investment being made to properly exploit the new US shale discoveries. But this changed as the OPEC/non-OPEC countries began to talk prices up to $50/bbl. As CNN reported last week: “Cash is pouring […]

Oil prices under pressure as US oil/product exports ramp up Read More

US Permian’s shale oil surge highlights OPEC’s failed strategy

OPEC and Russia made a massive mistake last November when when they decided to try and establish a $50/bbl floor for world oil prices.  And now they have doubled down on their mistake by extending the deal to March 2018. They have ignored 4 absolutely critical facts:   Major US shale oil producers were already […]

US Permian’s shale oil surge highlights OPEC’s failed strategy Read More

Oil market rebalancing myth looks close to its sell-by date

The myth of oil market rebalancing has been a great money-maker for financial markets.  Hedge funds were the first to benefit in H2 last year, as Reuters has reported, when: “OPEC and some of the most important hedge funds active in commodities reached an understanding on oil market rebalancing during informal briefings held in the […]

Oil market rebalancing myth looks close to its sell-by date Read More

Oil prices could halve as the speculative bubble starts to burst

The past few weeks have been a nightmare for the many hedge funds who gambled on higher oil prices. They obviously hadn’t realised that OPEC’s November quota agreement was most unlikely to lead to a major rebalancing of today’s vastly over-supplied market.  But as I suggested in December: “The simple fact is that the arrival […]

Oil prices could halve as the speculative bubble starts to burst Read More

Trump and dollar strength will accelerate the Great Reckoning

Corporate debt in the Emerging Markets highlights the impact of the Great Reckoning, with the US dollar and interest rates rising, as I describe in my latest post for the Financial Times, published on the BeyondBrics blog Corporate borrowers in Emerging Markets (EMs) are now facing higher debt service and capital repayment costs, due to […]

Trump and dollar strength will accelerate the Great Reckoning Read More

3 key questions for the oil market poker game, ahead of OPEC’s meeting

Volatility continues to dominate oil markets, as the above chart confirms.  Some weeks have seen prices move by over 18%.  These are extraordinary moves in a market which is very well supplied, with near-record inventory levels.  Some recent daily moves are equally extraordinary, with prices jumping $2.50/bbl on Tuesday. The volatility highlights the power of […]

3 key questions for the oil market poker game, ahead of OPEC’s meeting Read More

ExxonMobil, Saudi Arabia, differ on oil outlook – or do they?

If asked about the outlook for prices, oil company CEOs normally duck the question.  And they certainly never disagree in public with Saudi Arabia, the world’s leading oil producer.  This is what makes the recent speech by ExxonMobil CEO, Rex Tillerson, so interesting: “I don’t quite share the same view that others have that we are somehow […]

ExxonMobil, Saudi Arabia, differ on oil outlook – or do they? Read More

Oil markets enter the “post-fact economy”, where details of supply/demand no longer seem to matter

Once upon a time, oil markets were based on facts.  Producers and consumers focused on trying to understand what “would” happen”, whilst the speculators placed their bets on what “could” happen. In those days – even 20 years ago, as the chart shows – the role of the speculators on the futures markets was very […]

Oil markets enter the “post-fact economy”, where details of supply/demand no longer seem to matter Read More

6 impossible things not to believe about oil before breakfast

 ”Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” Oil traders know how the Queen felt in Lewis Carroll’s famous book, Alice Through the Looking-Glass.  The list of impossible things that they are being asked to believe grows almost by the day:   Last week, prices jumped 4% on the basis that strong […]

6 impossible things not to believe about oil before breakfast Read More

You’ve seen the Great Unwinding; get ready for the Great Reckoning

Companies and investors now need to prepare for the Great Reckoning, as I describe in my latest post for the Financial Times, published on the BeyondBrics blog We have reached the second anniversary of the Great Unwinding of policymaker stimulus. Almost inevitably, this now seems likely to be followed by a Great Reckoning, a consequence […]

You’ve seen the Great Unwinding; get ready for the Great Reckoning Read More

Wrong assumptions on China growth and oil prices mean danger lies ahead for refiners and polymer producers

It could be a very difficult H2 for anyone involved in the Asian oil and polymer markets.  And given the global importance of these markets, everyone around the world will also feel the impact.  The issue is that most business strategies have been based on 2 increasingly unlikely assumptions:   Companies all assumed that oil […]

Wrong assumptions on China growth and oil prices mean danger lies ahead for refiners and polymer producers Read More

Europe’s oil product glut halves gasoline margins in 2 weeks

We are approaching the 2nd anniversary of the Great Unwinding of policymaker stimulus, which began in August 2014: The initial movement was very sharp, with Brent falling 53% by January and the US$ rising 23% by March Oil then saw an initial correction – with Brent recovering to being 37% down by May during the “oil […]

Europe’s oil product glut halves gasoline margins in 2 weeks Read More

Brexit a disaster for the UK, Europe and the world

First, the good news.  It has long been recognised that the UK economy is over-dependent on financial services, and that its housing market – particularly in London – is wildly over-priced in relation to earnings.  The Brexit vote should ensure that both these problems are solved: Many banks and financial institutions are already planning to […]

Brexit a disaster for the UK, Europe and the world Read More

Naimi finally allowed to retire, Saudi oil policy stays the same

81-year olds are allowed to retire, even if they have to wait a year for final permission to be given.  But it seems a simple headline saying “Saudi Oil Minister retires after 69 year career” is not “exciting” enough in today’s media world?  So perhaps we can’t be too surprised to find some of the world’s […]

Naimi finally allowed to retire, Saudi oil policy stays the same Read More

China’s G20 Summit shutdown highlights risks to buying “frenzy” in commodities markets

China’s polyester industry, like many others, is already preparing to shut down ahead of September’s G20 Summit in Hangzhou, to reduce pollution levels.  The phenomenon even has its own Wikipedia page, APEC Blue, to describe the moment in November 2014 when Beijing suddenly saw blue sky for the whole of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit meeting.  It […]

China’s G20 Summit shutdown highlights risks to buying “frenzy” in commodities markets Read More

Saudi plans to transform Aramco to energy /industrial company

“Within 20 years, we will be an economy that doesn’t depend mainly on oil“. With that one statement, deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (pictured above), changed the outlook for oil and energy markets.  The world’s major oil producer, with the lowest cost, was signalling that the kingdom will no longer be supply-driven, focused on […]

Saudi plans to transform Aramco to energy /industrial company Read More

Chemicals, the “flea on the tail of the currency/interest rate dog”

Markets are becoming increasingly chaotic, as the world’s major central banks each try to devalue their currencies. They have created a traders’ paradise, with oil on a particularly wild ride.  But this has not been based on supply/demand fundamentals.  Instead, it has been due to hedge funds jumping back into the commodities market. They don’t […]

Chemicals, the “flea on the tail of the currency/interest rate dog” Read More

Oil market rally under threat as Doha meeting fails to agree

Yesterday’s failure of the Doha oil producers meeting will hopefully reintroduce a note of sanity into oil markets.  After all, Saudi leaders have made it clear, time and time again, that they were no longer interested in operating a cartel where they take the pain of cutting production, and everyone else gains the benefit of […]

Oil market rally under threat as Doha meeting fails to agree Read More

US GDP Q1 forecast at just 0.1%; global chemical output slows

“Confusion now hath made his masterpiece”.  This quotation from Shakespeare’s great tragedy, Macbeth, aptly sums up the state of the world economy. Policymakers refuse to accept that the BabyBoomer-led economic SuperCycle is over.  And so they continue to believe that adding vast amounts of electronic money to the financial system will return the economy to SuperCycle levels […]

US GDP Q1 forecast at just 0.1%; global chemical output slows Read More

Hedge funds exit oil price rally as Saudi plans post-oil economy

“Within 20 years, we will be an economy or state that doesn’t depend mainly on oil“. This critical statement from Saudi Arabia’s deputy Crown Prince has been lost in the hype surrounding Q1′s hedge fund-inspired rally in oil, commodities and Emerging Markets.  There has seldom been a better example of markets failing to see the […]

Hedge funds exit oil price rally as Saudi plans post-oil economy Read More

Oil market speculators profit as central banks hand out free cash

Oil markets are entering a very dangerous phase.  Already, many US energy companies have gone bankrupt, having believed that $100/bbl prices would justify their drilling costs.  Now the pain is moving downstream. The problem is the central banks.  Hedge funds have piled into the oil futures markets since January, betting that there would be lots […]

Oil market speculators profit as central banks hand out free cash Read More

China’s rising exports: less about growth, more about exporting deflation

China’s move towards self-sufficiency is radically changing global oil and petrochemical markets,as I describe in my latest post for the Financial Times, published on the BeyondBrics blog Markets used to cheer when China’s exports rose, believing this showed the global economy was in good shape. They are still hopeful today, despite the 25 per cent fall in February’s […]

China’s rising exports: less about growth, more about exporting deflation Read More

Prepare for $10-$15/bbl oil as Iran, US return to the market

Oil markets finally entered their “give-up phase” last week.  Amazingly, it is now nearly 18 months since the start of the Great Unwinding of policymaker stimulus in August 2014, when Brent was still $105/bbl.  On Friday night Brent closed at $29/bbl.  As ICIS Chemical Business (ICB) notes in its latest editorial: “International eChem’s Paul Hodges […]

Prepare for $10-$15/bbl oil as Iran, US return to the market Read More

Oil hits $30/bbl – and suddenly, analysts forecast lower prices

Yesterday, oil prices reached my long-held $30/bbl forecast level.  And suddenly, it seems, all the leading analysts have begun to forecast lower oil prices.  As Reuters reported: “Adjusting to the price rout, analysts have been shifting their price outlooks downward, with Barclays, Macquarie, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Standard Chartered and Societe Generale all cutting […]

Oil hits $30/bbl – and suddenly, analysts forecast lower prices Read More

Expect $25 – $30/bbl oil and lower chemical prices in 2016

More than $2.3tn was wiped off the value of global stocks last week as China’s slowing economy and currency depreciations spooked investors around the world, leading to the worst start to a year for markets in at least two decades.  This is the Great Unwinding of policymaker stimulus in action. Worse is likely to come. […]

Expect $25 – $30/bbl oil and lower chemical prices in 2016 Read More

Chart of the Year – Oil prices return to natural gas linkage

Last year’s ‘Chart of the Year’ was headlined “China’s auto sales bubble begins to burst“.  Few would disagree with this view today.  Similarly, there is little doubt about 2015′s Chart of the Year.  It has been the focus of industry and analyst attention all year: Those who believed that argument that the world faces an […]

Chart of the Year – Oil prices return to natural gas linkage Read More

Oil price forecasts based on myths, not proper analysis

Did your company or investment manager use $50/bbl as a forecast Scenario price for oil this year?  If not, why not?  And has this question even been asked, as you finalise forecasts for 2016? In recent months, many readers have told me despairingly of their efforts to suggest alternative Scenarios to last year’s “consensus” view […]

Oil price forecasts based on myths, not proper analysis Read More

Algorithms drive oil prices up 6%, yet fundamentals remain weak

It only took 2 days for a shocking example to confirm my concern on Monday about the volatility being created by central bank stimulus: As the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) chart shows, a major oil price move took place early in Wednesday’s trading US WTI oil had been trading below $44/bbl, when suddenly prices jumped from […]

Algorithms drive oil prices up 6%, yet fundamentals remain weak Read More

5 Critical Questions every Company and Investor Need to Answer

Today’s uncertain economic and oil price  environment has created chaos in petrochemical feedstock and product markets.  This creates major risks for producers, consumers and investors. ICIS and International eChem have therefore decided to combine our resources to launch a new Study, that will analyse the potential impact of these developments on the olefins, aromatics and […]

5 Critical Questions every Company and Investor Need to Answer Read More

Impact of $25/bbl oil – free pH Report webinar next Tuesday

The consensus failed to forecast last year’s oil price collapse.  So is today’s conventional wisdom correct to suggest that prices will now stabilise at current levels and then move higher? We focus on this critical issue in this quarter’s free webinar from The pH Report: The potential for $25/bbl to be the “new normal” for […]

Impact of $25/bbl oil – free pH Report webinar next Tuesday Read More

Stock market volatility surges as margin debt hits danger level

Global stock markets turned in a vintage experience last week for those who like horror movies. Continued sell-offs in China finally convinced some financial investors, and some senior Western policymakers, that its economy might not be quite as strong as they had assumed.  The ensuing panic led to record profits for the high frequency traders (HFTs), as the Dow Jones […]

Stock market volatility surges as margin debt hits danger level Read More

Contagion hits financial markets as Great Unwinding continues

Crude oil prices continued to fall towards $30/bbl last week.  Markets are finally starting to recognise, as the BBC reported last year, that ‘China fooled the world‘ with its stimulus programme. It had not suddenly become middle-class by Western standards in 2009.  Instead, aided by developed country stimulus policies, its own stimulus had helped create […]

Contagion hits financial markets as Great Unwinding continues Read More

Phase 2 of the Great Unwinding of policymaker stimulus begins

Greece, Iran, China – suddenly real world issues are starting to dominate the headlines.  And few people now believe that printing more money is the way to solve these issues.  Instead, political leaders are being forced to take the hard decisions they have ducked for so long. Financial markets are clearly reflecting the change.  They […]

Phase 2 of the Great Unwinding of policymaker stimulus begins Read More

US Marcellus gas output trebles as drilling rig count halves

Simple stories aren’t always true.  That’s certainly the case with the fiction that the fall in the number of US oil drilling rigs will soon reduce US oil production. Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson recently reminded us of this critical point: “Clearly a significant decline in rig activity did not diminish the continued growth of […]

US Marcellus gas output trebles as drilling rig count halves Read More

OPEC hit as ‘peak oil demand’ arrives and US imports fall

Oil market traders have been having fun in recent weeks, as they have managed to create guaranteed price movements every week: US oil inventory data is published on Tuesday and Wednesday This gives traders the chance to push prices lower as the inventories continue to rise US oil rig data is published on Friday This creates the chance to […]

OPEC hit as ‘peak oil demand’ arrives and US imports fall Read More

Volatility rises as central bank policies prove wishful thinking

Q1 was very difficult for many companies and investors.  They had wanted to believe since 2009 that central banks could somehow control the global economy: The oil price would always be $100/bbl The US $ would always remain weak Central banks would always be able to stimulate growth in the economy Stock markets would always go up in the […]

Volatility rises as central bank policies prove wishful thinking Read More

Executives struggle to keep up as volatility rises with Great Unwinding

It is looking more and more likely that the global economy hit a peak in Q2 last year, and has since been slowing.  Latest data on chemical production from the American Chemistry Council indicates a further slowdown so far this year, as the chart shows: Global production slowed to 2.8% in February from a 5% peak […]

Executives struggle to keep up as volatility rises with Great Unwinding Read More

Hedge funds moving away from ‘buy on the dips’ strategy

In recent years, financial markets have believed that “everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds“.  Good news has taken markets higher.  So has bad news – as investors assume policymakers will apply more stimulus. As a result, a whole generation of managers and analysts has grown up without having to learn the fundamentals of supply/demand analysis.  And […]

Hedge funds moving away from ‘buy on the dips’ strategy Read More

Oil price, China Outlook – free pH Report webinar tomorrow

There have so far been 3 stages to the oil price collapse since I first forecast this development in mid-August: The first stage saw prices reach my initial forecast target of $70/bbl in November They then fell further to reach my second price target of $50/bbl in January Since then, prices have been trading in a wide range. Daily moves of $2/bbl, […]

Oil price, China Outlook – free pH Report webinar tomorrow Read More

Oil price rally a “Head Fake” says International Energy Agency

Why wouldn’t oil prices return to their long-term average around $30/bbl?  After all,  the world is facing a long-term energy supply glut.  The latest monthly report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) confirms my view that the recent rally has simply been a trading coup: “HEAD FAKE “Behind the façade of stability, the rebalancing triggered by the price […]

Oil price rally a “Head Fake” says International Energy Agency Read More

Oil price, China Outlook – free pH Report webinar next Tuesday

There have so far been 3 stages to the oil price collapse since I first forecast this development in mid-August: The first stage saw prices reach my initial forecast target of $70/bbl in November They then fell further to reach my second price target of $50/bbl in January Since then, prices have been trading in a wide range. Daily moves of $2/bbl, […]

Oil price, China Outlook – free pH Report webinar next Tuesday Read More

Oil prices have further to fall as US inventory hits new records

Another week, and another record high for US oil inventories.  Oil prices clearly have some way to go, before they return to being based on the fundamentals of supply and demand. Thankfully, the looking-glass world of $100/bbl prices has finally begun to shatter over the past 9 months.  And we can expect prices to return to historical […]

Oil prices have further to fall as US inventory hits new records Read More

China exports deflation to the West

Unfortunately, the European Central Bank (ECB) does not read the blog, or yet subscribe to ‘The pH Report’.  If it did, it would have been forewarned back in August that a collapse in oil prices was potentially about to provide the catalyst for the arrival of deflation. Instead, as the Minutes of its critical January […]

China exports deflation to the West Read More

Deflation gains: China’s plastics market sees over-capacity

More and more commentators are beginning to recognise that deflation is becoming inevitable in many major economies: China’s producer prices fell -4.3% last month, and its consumer prices rose just 0.8% Eurozone consumer prices fell in December to -0.2%, and are likely to have fallen further in January US prices rose just 0.8% in December and are […]

Deflation gains: China’s plastics market sees over-capacity Read More

How to survive the Great Unwinding of policymaker stimulus

I was privileged to be interviewed by Merryn Somerset Webb, editor-in-chief of MoneyWeek (the UK’s best-selling financial magazine) in this week’s edition.  The interview covered a wide range of topics including the perilous state of UK house prices and some stock markets, and has prompted enormous interest amongst MoneyWeek readers. Merryn is one of the UK’s leading […]

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Oil market faces “historic shift” – International Energy Agency

The above chart highlights one major reason behind my forecast last August that oil prices were about to collapse.  This was that US inventories were so high, storage was starting to run out: Inventory had reached all-time record levels, and was at around 60 days of sales (blue area) And so prices simply had to fall, to […]

Oil market faces “historic shift” – International Energy Agency Read More

“Houston, we have a problem!”

Suddenly, far too late, the world is catching up with reality.  Goldman Sachs and others yesterday halved their forecast for Brent oil to $42/bbl from $80/bbl.  But this isn’t forecasting, this is simply catching up with events long after they happened.  Brent, after all, opened at $45/bbl this morning. As readers will remember, I forecast back in August […]

“Houston, we have a problem!” Read More

Oil prices at $50/bbl, China slowdown – the New Normal arrives

Welcome to the New Normal. The Great Unwinding of policymaker stimulus has led global oil prices to drop back to $50/bbl.  Meanwhile China, the major source of demand growth since 2009, is now seeing a major slowdown. And, of course, this is still only the beginning of the great transformation that is now underway as we enter […]

Oil prices at $50/bbl, China slowdown – the New Normal arrives Read More

Why did nobody else forecast that the oil price would collapse?

Brent oil prices closed at $104.71/bbl on Friday 15 August.  On the following Monday morning, I published the first post in my Great Unwinding series, arguing that: “The Great Unwinding of the failed stimulus policies since 2008 has now begun…oil markets are starting to follow cotton and other commodities in refocusing on the fundamentals of supply and […]

Why did nobody else forecast that the oil price would collapse? Read More

Oil price collapse, US$ rise confirm Great Unwinding underway

Stock markets are floating ever higher on an ocean of central bank money printing.  But something else is happening in the real world where we all live and work.  Since August, I have been warning that the Great Unwinding of this policymaker stimulus is now underway.  The chart above highlights how my 2 core forecasts have now been confirmed: Brent Oil […]

Oil price collapse, US$ rise confirm Great Unwinding underway Read More

Great Unwinding leads to major chemical market downturn

It is now almost 3 months since I suggested the Great Unwinding was about to hit oil and chemical markets.  As the chart above shows, there has since been a major collapse in most of the markets in our benchmark portfolio.  Given their role as leading indicators for the global economy, this major downturn is extremely worrying: […]

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Oil prices have further to fall as Great Unwinding continues

Oil prices are highly likely to fall further, not rebound, over the next few months.  That is the blog’s conclusion to its 3-part analysis of likely developments in oil markets. Having looked at the outlook for oil supply and demand over the past 2 days, today’s post looks at the key question of ‘what does this mean for oil […]

Oil prices have further to fall as Great Unwinding continues Read More

OPEC faces New Normal dilemma as oil demand slows

Yesterday’s post described how OPEC oil producers are seeing their export sales to the US start to disappear.  But this, of course, is only one side of the story.  As the chart from the Wall Street Journal shows, Saudi needs a $93/bbl oil price to balance its budget.  Most of OPEC needs a higher price.  Only Kuwait, UAE and Qatar need […]

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IMF says economic growth may never return to pre-crisis levels

The Great Unwinding of policymakers’ failed stimulus programmes is now clearly underway in the global economy.  The headlines this week all focused on the latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) report: “IMF says economic growth may never return to pre-crisis levels.” And then, in response, the US Federal Reserve suddenly realised that the US economy was not […]

IMF says economic growth may never return to pre-crisis levels Read More

Could the oil price triangle be close to cracking?

As discussed yesterday, energy markets are now going through major change.  Many of the investment banks who led the move to higher prices post-2008 are closing their commodity trading desks and withdrawing from the markets. Equally, the physical traders recognise that trying to push prices higher, without a real geopolitical threat, is like trying to push water uphill.  […]

Could the oil price triangle be close to cracking? Read More

Oil consumption growth has slowed as prices have stayed high

As promised yesterday, the blog looks today at the impact of today’s high prices on oil consumption growth. As the chart, based on BP data shows, the ‘easy money’ policies of the central banks have only partially mitigated the impact of the oil price rally since 2009.  Consumption growth has not fallen to the 0.8%/year level […]

Oil consumption growth has slowed as prices have stayed high Read More

Oil price costs remain close to 5% of global GDP

Oil markets have been driven by speculative excess since 2009.  None of the factors that were supposed to create supply shortages have ever occurred.  Markets have never even been close to scrambling for product.  And the rallies are getting shorter and shorter, as this simple fact is finally being better understood. Thus traders’ most recent efforts to create […]

Oil price costs remain close to 5% of global GDP Read More

Oil will be left in the ground, as gas gains energy market share

The annual BP Energy Statistics publication is a treasure trove of information for anyone interested in global energy markets.  One key area is the impact of today’s higher oil prices on consumption growth, as highlighted in the chart: It starts from 1965, and shows consumption growth for oil (red line), gas (blue) and total energy (green) Oil’s […]

Oil will be left in the ground, as gas gains energy market share Read More

Europe faces Russian gas and oil supply risk over Ukraine

History shows that that governments usually lose arguments with energy suppliers.  UK premier Harold Macmillan summed up the position when talking about coal miners in the 1950s, warning: “There are three bodies no sensible man directly challenges: the Roman Catholic Church, the Brigade of Guards and the National Union of Mineworkers” Unfortunately, Europe now potentially faces an argument with its leading gas […]

Europe faces Russian gas and oil supply risk over Ukraine Read More

Can oil prices stay at $100/bbl forever?

Sometimes the blog’s mind goes back to its happy days in Houston, Texas, when it set up and ran ICI’s feedstock and petchems trading office.  And it thinks through the factors that it would have considered when deciding whether to buy, sell or sit on the sidelines. The memory came back during last week’s lively ACS webinar, when […]

Can oil prices stay at $100/bbl forever? Read More

European oil travels the world as market complacency increases

The blog has a suggestion for a quiz question for anyone planning party games over the Christmas period: Q.  What was the longest distance travelled by a cargo of crude oil in 2013? A.  9000 km (5500 miles) from Scotland to China Isn’t that amazing?  We are constantly being told that supply is short, and that today’s high prices are […]

European oil travels the world as market complacency increases Read More

Oil market hype fails to take prices out of their triangle

Pity for a moment those poor souls whose income depends on finding ever-more creative ways of justifying today’s record levels of oil prices.  One by one, all their favourite stories have disappeared.  Even the traditional summer warnings of record hurricane disruption have so far failed to deliver. How different it is from the start of the crisis, when the […]

Oil market hype fails to take prices out of their triangle Read More

Pension fund speculation boosts oil prices as consumers suffer

Think back over the past 5 years.  Can you remember a single time when oil supplies were actually difficult to find?  If you can’t, then you have the same memory as the blog. Official statistics support this view.  Thus last week’s US EIA report noted that “U.S. crude oil inventories are near the upper limit […]

Pension fund speculation boosts oil prices as consumers suffer Read More

Demand growth stalls as stimulus effects prove temporary

As executives return to their desks this week, they face some difficult judgement calls.  As the chart shows, markets have been worryingly quiet over the summer.  Most products in the IeC benchmark portfolio are unchanged.  Only Brent crude oil and naphtha have moved higher – due to Syria concerns – whilst benzene has moved lower.  But even these are relatively minor movements. This […]

Demand growth stalls as stimulus effects prove temporary Read More

"Its the oil price, stupid!"

Famously, when Bill Clinton ran his successful presidential campaign in 1992, his advisers would remind him of the key message with just one phrase “Its the economy, stupid!”. Today’s policymakers would do well to maintain a similar focus on the oil p…

"Its the oil price, stupid!" Read More

What goes up, comes down

Don’t panic is the blog’s suggestion, after last week’s market collapse.

Instead, the important thing is to plan for what might happen next. Scenario planning is absolutely critical to survival over coming months.

The blog’s advice is to assemble yo…

What goes up, comes down Read More

The Downturn arrives

It is 5 months since the blog launched its IeC Downturn Alert, using prices from 29 April. It wrote then that:

“They don’t ring bells at market turning points. Otherwise, we could all retire to the Bahamas.”

But its argument was that a peak was li…

The Downturn arrives Read More

Investment banks reportedly dominated oil trading in US futures markets as prices spiked in June 2008

The investment banks have maintained a consistent focus on oil market supply disruptions and demand surges in recent years, alongside forecasts of sharply increasing prices. We discussed their role in more detail in the recently published Chapter 3 of…

Investment banks reportedly dominated oil trading in US futures markets as prices spiked in June 2008 Read More