Futures trading

Futures markets, US shale, the big winners from OPEC meeting

There were only two winners from the past 3 months of OPEC’s “Will they?, Won’t they?” debate on output cutbacks. Iran wasn’t one of them – although the talks did emphasise its renewed ability to control the OPEC agenda.  Nor was Saudi Arabia, forced to accept the lion’s share of the proposed cutbacks. Instead, the […]

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Oil markets begin to slide as Great Unwinding resumes

Oil prices have fallen around $5/bbl, since my suggestion last week that a “New oil price fall was a matter of “when”, not “if”“.  It thus seems increasingly likely they are resuming their fall back towards $30/bbl, as we discussed in last week’s pH Report webinar. Financial players clearly misread the market when they assumed […]

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August highlights

Many readers have been taking a well-earned break over the past few weeks.   As usual, therefore, the blog is highlighting key posts during August, to help you catch up as you return to the office. Economic outlook:  Great Unwinding of stimulus underway.  Q2 results show slowing growth.  US retail sales decline in line with incomes, […]

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US oil inventories hit record high as supply increases

Imagine that 5 years ago, you had been asked by your Board to forecast future oil prices.  And suppose you had prepared a forecast which said: Oil demand growth will slow in the West, as cars become more fuel-efficient and ageing populations drive less Demand growth in the emerging economies will be supported temporarily by real estate […]

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Cotton prices slip as US supply rises and China’s imports fall

It seems that cotton prices are about to return to normal levels again.  The blog’s detailed discussion of the issues last September highlighted how current Chinese government policies seemed doomed to fail, at enormous cost to the wider world.  It now looks as though China’s new leadership agrees with this conclusion. Since late 2008, the previous leadership’s […]

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Aluminium warehouse changes threaten caustic soda sales

Strong aluminium markets have provided great support to caustic soda producers in recent years.  PVC and construction markets have been weak, but volumes into aluminium mining have kept prices and overall chloralkali margins strong. Now this may be about to change.  As the blog noted in March, aluminium prices have been supported by the behaviour of […]

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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…

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2012 Budgets

The blog will publish its fifth annual Budget Outlook next weekend. As usual, it is therefore time to review last year’s Outlook. Past performance may not be a perfect guide to future outcomes. But it is one of the best that we have.

The blog’s 2008 O…

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Time for leadership at EPCA

The chemical industry has a turnover of $3.4trn, and is the world’s 3rd largest industry. It matters to the global economy.

Many of its leaders are about to meet next weekend in Berlin for the annual European Petrochemical Association (EPCA) meeting….

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Budgeting and the New Normal

Companies are now starting the Budget process for 2012-14.

As always, the blog will present its own view next month. It will also review last year’s Budget Outlook, presciently titled ‘Budgeting for Uncertainty’.

In the meantime, companies might l…

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August highlights

Many readers have been taking a well-earned break over the past few weeks. The blog also continues to gain large numbers of new readers, as the financial crisis intensifies. As usual, therefore, it is highlighting key posts during August, to help you…

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The New Normal World in 2021

All of us would love to be able to see into the future.

Chapter 4 of our new free eBook, ‘Boom, Gloom and the New Normal’, does just this.

It offers 10 predictions about how the world will look in 2021:

1. Young and old will be focused on ‘needs’…

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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…

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BASF warns on the outlook

Last month, the blog suggested that CEOs might want to warn investors of the threat to earnings from high oil prices, unemployment and economic fragility. BASF, the world’s largest chemical company, have done exactly this today. New Chairman, Dr Kurt

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Petchem markets stabilise

Petchem markets have moved into an interesting phase. Optimists will point to the recovery in crude oil and financial markets, plus higher prices for naphtha and benzene. They will see these as signs that we are just in the middle

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Anecdotal evidence

ICIS pricing reports are a treasure trove of information for buyers and sellers. They can also provide an interesting insight into the overall mood of the chemical industry. This might be one of those times. My blogging colleague, John Richardson,

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Aromatics markets stumble

The aromatics market is a very liquid market compared to other chemical markets. It is an excellent leading indicator for industry pricing and volume trends, and forecast the current rally in April 2009. The chart above shows how Brent crude

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Boom/Gloom Index at a crossroad

The blog’s Boom/Gloom Index presents a fascinating picture this month. The main Index (blue column) remains strongly positive, in keeping with the solid performance of most stock markets. It confirms evidence from other sentiment indices that investors are optimistic about

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Budgeting for Uncertainty

When elephants fight, those around them need to be cautious. And this is the prospect for 2011-13, as the Western countries try to force the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) to export less and import more, the so-called ‘rebalancing’

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2011 Budgets

The blog will publish its annual Budget Outlook for 2011 next weekend. And so as usual, its now time to review last year’s Outlook. Past performance may not be a perfect guide to future outcomes. But it is one of

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Oil markets draw a triangle

Peter Lynch, who managed Fidelity’s Magellan Fund in its great days, once remarked that “the futures and options markets are a giant transfer payment from the unwary to the wary“. This has certainly been the case in oil markets over

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August highlights

Many readers have been taking a well-deserved break over the past few weeks. As usual, therefore, the blog is highlighting key posts during August, to help you catch up as you return to the office. August has been surprisingly busy:

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Interpreting trader talk

Current financial and chemical market volatility is a bonanza for good traders, as it gives them more opportunity to take positions, up or down. However, having traded on behalf of a chemical major in Houston, Texas, the blog knows from

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Oil Markets Quote of the Day

Yesterday, the blog worried that oil prices were well out of line with fundamentals. It argued that momentum trading, highlighted by MF Global’s energy VP, Mike Fitzpatrick, had created a speculative mania. Today, it looks as though Fitzpatrick might agree.

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ACS and ISM feature the blog

The latest in the American Chemical Society’s 6 monthly ‘Chemicals and the Economy’ webinar series took place last week. It was moderated by former ACS President, Bill Carroll, of Occidental Chemical, and again proved very popular. ACS reported high levels

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A Year of Two Halves

Two months ago, on 8 May, the blog suggested that ‘Sell in May and Go Away” was likely to prove good advice this year. Since then, most major stock markets have fallen dramatically, with the S&P 500 down by 9%.

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Q3 may see seasonal weakness

6 months ago, the blog suggested that normal seasonal demand patterns could resume in 2010. And it optimistically forecast “a strong H1“, on the basis that “consumers should need to restock ahead of the usual Q2 demand peak in autos/construction“.

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Volcker returns

Sometimes, a picture is worth 1000 words. That’s the case with this photo (used by most of the world’s major news media), showing President Obama with former US Fed Governor Paul Volcker by his side. Volcker’s re-emergence is the first

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Top 10 posts in 2009

Blog readers have a wide range of interests. That is clear from the list below of the Top 10 posts in 2009. It also confirms the complexity of the chemical industry, and its fascination. In alphabetical order, it is as

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The 2010 Outlook

Extended downturns, of the type that we are now suffering, generally mark a transition period from one set of business conditions to another. I look at what might be in store for us during this transition, in this week’s edition

The 2010 Outlook Read More