Economic growth

Rethinking, repositioning and restructuring are now essential for industry survival

Resilience requires companies to refocus downstream and diversify their portfolio. They also need to be clear about the value proposition for their target market – are they providing Value, or Luxury? Rethinking, repositioning and restructuring are now all key to survival and future profit.

Rethinking, repositioning and restructuring are now essential for industry survival Read More

Demographics are destiny – and today’s ageing populations are creating a “replacement economy”

Demographics are taking demand patterns in completely new directions. Sustaining future growth now depends on successfully developing and implementing new policies, focused on the opportunities offered by the emergence of the Perennials 55+ cohort.

Demographics are destiny – and today’s ageing populations are creating a “replacement economy” Read More

Existential crisis? Growth opportunity? Catalyst for restructuring? Decarbonization challenges the chemical industry and its customers

“Chemicals are present in 95% of manufactured goods. The chemical industry is Europe’s hungriest industrial energy consumer and the 3rd biggest emitter of CO2 emissions. It now stands on the verge of one of the greatest tipping points and challenges in its history: the transition to carbon neutrality.”

Existential crisis? Growth opportunity? Catalyst for restructuring? Decarbonization challenges the chemical industry and its customers Read More

It’s our 16th birthday – and the chemical industry remains the best leading indicator for the global economy

The Ukraine war highlights how the real world can often be a very messy place. Issues such as geopolitics and demographics aren’t easy to understand. It can be hard to understand the detail of how key industries and markets are operating.

So it’s no surprise that most policymakers have preferred to stay in the world of theory.

It’s our 16th birthday – and the chemical industry remains the best leading indicator for the global economy Read More

“Houston, we have a problem” – China’s move to self-sufficiency a game-changer for the plastics industry

Essentially, China’s move to self-sufficiency, and the need to deal with the issue of plastic waste, means there is no ‘business as usual’ option. Winners and Losers are already starting to emerge, as companies react to the challenges of today’s New Normal world.

“Houston, we have a problem” – China’s move to self-sufficiency a game-changer for the plastics industry Read More

China’s One Child Policy meant it “lost” 87 million girl babies – adding to its real estate and economic risks today

Everyone will now lose out as China’s real estate bubble continues to burst. The speculators who bought apartments they couldn’t afford will go bust. The new capacity built to supply the bubble will have to close down. And the millions of people who invested in China’s “growth miracle” will lose their shirts.

China’s One Child Policy meant it “lost” 87 million girl babies – adding to its real estate and economic risks today Read More

Japan’s premier warns of “social dysfunction” as ageing populations challenge Western and Chinese economies

Japan has wasted trillions of yen with its failed stimulus programmes. Had it devoted even a tenth of this money to developing a proper Retraining programme for people in their 50s/60s, it wouldn’t now be facing a major debt and currency crisis. The rest of the Western world needs to rapidly learn from its mistake.

Japan’s premier warns of “social dysfunction” as ageing populations challenge Western and Chinese economies Read More

China has locked down again. Yet World Cup TV shows that normal life has resumed outside China. And the real estate bubble (29% of GDP) continues to burst

The World Cup runs till December 18. That’s a long time for Chinese viewers to ask themselves “Why am I still locked down, when the rest of the world is living a normal life again”? And in the background, the real estate bubble continues to burst.

China has locked down again. Yet World Cup TV shows that normal life has resumed outside China. And the real estate bubble (29% of GDP) continues to burst Read More

Food costs and interest rates rise as energy and fertilizer supplies are hit by the invasion

It’s going to be a very difficult winter. Most of the world will be impacted as Europe bids up energy/food prices to keep its people warm and fed. And it would never have happened if policymakers had recognised the importance of geopolitics, energy markets and demographics.

Food costs and interest rates rise as energy and fertilizer supplies are hit by the invasion Read More

The blog’s 15th birthday – and the chemical industry remains the best leading indicator for the global economy

The US is moving into recession as the Atlanta Fed chart confirms. Chemicals have been warning of this for some time. But policymakers and commentators remain in Denial about the economy. They prefer to focus on their computer models, and ignore the real world outside their window.

The blog’s 15th birthday – and the chemical industry remains the best leading indicator for the global economy Read More

“We now understand better how little we understand about inflation”, Jay Powell, US Federal Reserve Chairman

We are facing a perfect storm of global food, energy and financial crises set off by the war in Ukraine.  Analysts need to stop focusing on monetary policy and the inversion of the yield curve. They need to look out of the window and start dealing with the geopolitical reality of Putinflation. 

“We now understand better how little we understand about inflation”, Jay Powell, US Federal Reserve Chairman Read More

The chemicals industry continues to be the best leading indicator for the global economy

Central banks and investors believed stimulus programs had created a “New Paradigm” where asset prices would always increase. Now they are starting to realise that stimulus is irrelevant against the 3 Horsemen of the Apocalypse – China’s continuing battle with the pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and potential famine as rising gas/fertilizer prices mean farmers can’t afford to grow their crops or feed their animals.   

The chemicals industry continues to be the best leading indicator for the global economy Read More

Ukraine, pandemic, herald major market shifts

Energy and financial markets are exacerbating the risks ahead. Oil prices at current levels – as the chart confirms, they now account for more than 3% of global GDP – have historically led to recession as the chart shows. The reason is that consumers have to cut back on their discretionary spending, which drives economic growth, in order to heat their homes and travel to work and school. Today’s high levels of natural gas prices add to this risk.

Ukraine, pandemic, herald major market shifts 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

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

The post ACS Chemistry & the Economy webinar on Thursday appeared first on Chemicals and the Economy.

ACS Chemistry & the Economy webinar on Thursday 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

The post 225 years ago today. The first ever vaccination – against smallpox, the great killer of the time appeared first on Chemicals and the Economy.

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

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

The post Pandemic leads to ‘baby bust’ as births decline in most countries appeared first on Chemicals and the Economy.

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

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

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

The post UK set to take hard line on EU trade under David Frost appeared first on Chemicals and the Economy.

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

The post EU focuses on a sustainable and circular plastics system appeared first on Chemicals and the Economy.

EU focuses on a sustainable and circular plastics system Read More

2021 unlikely to see a quick return to ‘business as usual’

Investors have been spoilt in recent years by the absence of risk. 2020 confirmed the ‘risk off’ mode as central banks ramped up their support. But will Wall Street continue in party mood, despite the growing problems on Main Street?

 

2021 unlikely to see a quick return to ‘business as usual’ 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

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

What would another 4 years of President Trump’s policies mean?

50 million Americans have already voted in the Presidential election. Turnout is on course to be the highest percentage since 1908. This week we analyse President Trump’s agenda if he is re-elected. Next week, we will look at Joe Biden’s alternative for the country.

 

What would another 4 years of President Trump’s policies mean? Read More

Central banks try to ‘print babies’ to boost consumption

Supply/demand balances are weakening in oil markets, whilst a Fed Governor has highlighted the serious problem that developed in Treasury markets during the March collapse. We also focus on the economic impact of the Perennials – who will provide the majority of US/Western and Global population growth over the next decade.

 

Central banks try to ‘print babies’ to boost consumption 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“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

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

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

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 […]

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Time to recognise the economic impact of ageing populations 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

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% […]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

World Aromatics Conference focuses on key industry challenges

Our 16th World Aromatics and Derivatives conference will take place on 8-9 November. 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 […]

World Aromatics Conference focuses on key industry challenges Read More

Hurricane Harvey: lack of insurance will hit Houston’s recovery

“By Monday, the third straight day of flooding, the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey had left much of the region underwater, and the city of Houston looked like a sea dotted by small islands.  ’This event is unprecedented,’ the National Weather Service tweeted. ‘All impacts are unknown and beyond anything experienced.’” This summary from the New […]

Hurricane Harvey: lack of insurance will hit Houston’s recovery Read More

Chemical industry data shows reflation remains hope, not reality

Western central bankers are convinced reflation and economic growth are finally underway as a result of their $14tn stimulus programmes.  But the best leading indicator for the global economy – capacity utilisation (CU%) in the global chemical industry – is saying they are wrong.  The CU% has an 88% correlation with actual GDP growth, far […]

Chemical industry data shows reflation remains hope, not reality Read More

Political risk and interest rates rise in US, UK and Japan, as debt and dysfunctionality grow

It was almost exactly 10 years ago that then Citibank boss, Chuck Prince, unintentionally highlighted the approach of the subprime crisis with his comment that: ‘We are not scared. We are not panicked. We are not rattled. Our team has been through this before.’ We are ’still dancing’.” On Friday JP Morgan’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, […]

Political risk and interest rates rise in US, UK and Japan, as debt and dysfunctionality grow 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

The blog’s 10th birthday

My first blog post was written exactly 10 years ago this week, on 22 June 2007, from Bangkok in Thailand.  Titled The 10th anniversary of the Asian financial Crisis, it covered the early days of the sub-prime financial crisis and noted the changes that had taken place in Asia since 1997. Who knew that the blog […]

The blog’s 10th birthday 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

G7 Summit shows leaders are forgetting the lesson of the 1930s

G7 Summits began in the crisis years of the mid-1970s, bringing Western leaders together to tackle the big issues of the day – oil price crises, the Cold War with the Soviet Union and many others.  Then, as stability returned in the 1980s with the BabyBoomer-led economic SuperCycle, they became forward-looking.  The agenda moved to […]

G7 Summit shows leaders are forgetting the lesson of the 1930s Read More

UK risks “crashing out” of EU after election without trade deal

Yesterday, senior EU negotiators warned that “the chances of Britain crashing out of the EU without a new (trade) deal were now “over 50%””.  Clearly, therefore, the UK’s preparations are not going well. Instead of building trust, the UK’s Brexit Secretary, David Davis, seems to think that threats – such as promising “the row of […]

UK risks “crashing out” of EU after election without trade deal Read More