Leverage

Time to focus on the danger of corporate and household leverage as “subprime on steroids” comes to an end

The seeming genius of many private equity funds in recent years has been based on this ability to borrow at cheap rates during the ‘up’ part of the business cycle. Now we are heading into the ‘down’ cycle. And the central banks have abandoned Bernanke Theory and are back to worrying about inflation. So today’s excess leverage means many over-leveraged companies will go bust.

China’s ‘perpetual motion’ housing machine is starting to slow

Evergrande’s default will only be the first of many. Companies and countries that have “bet the ranch” on China’s “perpetual motion machine” need to urgently decide how to minimise their potential losses, whilst there is still time

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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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% […]

The post The tide of global debt has peaked: 8 charts suggest what may happen next, as the tide retreats appeared first on Chemicals & The Economy.

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 […]

Simplicity the key goal for bank regulation

Over the past 20 years, the financial sector has captured an increasing share of the wealth created by the rest of the economy. At its peak before the Crisis, it accounted for 40% of all profits in the US corporate sector, allowing financiers to claim…

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…

Investors prefer JUUGS to PIIGS

Financial markets have become increasingly nervous in recent weeks, since the blog last reviewed developments in global bond markets.

Its conclusion then was that investors are worrying more about return of capital, than return on capital, as we trans…

Political, Social concerns drive non-Western companies

Last week’s New Normal seminar in Houston continued the success of the Singapore and Frankfurt events. It sparked lively debate about the major opportunities for future growth in the New Normal. These include:

• The over-55 age group in the West …

EU’s plan to borrow from the poor boosts S&P 500

The brave new world of modern finance continues to amaze the blog.

It still has problems with the idea that the answer to having too much debt is to borrow some more. But last week’s Eurozone summit not only did this (as noted by the German central b…

Groundhog Day again as Quarter 4 starts

The great film comedy Groundhog Day saw Bill Murray doomed to repeat the same day in his life, until he learnt to become a better person. Sadly, financial markets have yet to learn from his example.

Every quarter, the investment banks produce new sto…

Critical Success Factors in the New Normal

Yesterday’s Scenarios hopefully provided valuable insight into the challenges ahead for companies and individuals. They also suggest some Critical Success Factors for achieving a successful transition to the New Normal, as set out in the chart above:

Scenarios for the transition to the New Normal

The transition to the new Normal is likely to be painful and long-lasting.

Future demand growth will be slower as the ageing Boomers spend less and save more.

More regular and deeper recessions are likely to become a feature of the global economy o…

A 4-point Action Plan for chemical companies

Today’s economic situation is getting worse, not better. The blog believes this is because most policymakers still refuse to accept the wisdom contained in the Beatles’ ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ song on their iconic Sgt Pepper album.

The Western BabyBoo…

US housing starts fall as the BabyBoomers get older

US subprime lending was the starting point for the economic crisis now spreading around the world. The blog believes a key cause was policymakers refusal to accept that the ageing of the BabyBoomers (those born between 1946-70) would cause a major cha…

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….

China’s lending continues to tighten

Financial bubbles are like balloons. Only instead of air, they need to be constantly pumped up with new lending. Otherwise they begin to deflate, and the Minsky Moment occurs.

The above chart of China’s bank lending shows, as discussed last month, t…

Algebra is the new alchemy for central banks

The blog’s Boom, Gloom and the New Normal eBook highlights the impact of the ageing Western babyboomers on future demand patterns.

Yet central banks such as the US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank believe demographics have nothing to do…

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…

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’…

Towards a New Normal, not a new Supercycle

The blog was in a minority of one when it launched its IeC Downturn Alert at the end of April.

But today, only a very few diehard optimists are still arguing the issue. GDP reports in Europe and the USA have shown virtually no growth in Q2, whilst Ch…

Wal-Mart sends a message

The blog is a great believer in the predictive power of the retail sector.

Wal-Mart and Tesco were the first to spot the downturn in the summer of 2007, a year before it became obvious to everyone else.

Now Wal-Mart’s problems are providing some impo…

China’s bank lending nears its Minsky Moment

China’s credit bubble is one of the largest the world has ever seen. This is true not only of its total size, but also in relation to GDP.

The history of credit bubbles is very clear about what happens next. Anyone who has followed the US subprime l…

Bernanke says no QE3 planned

The chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, has issued a sober update on the current state of the US economy. Expressing his disappointment that growth this year “has been somewhat slower than expected“, he then listed a number …

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Facts of the week

The Financial Times reports two interesting facts: • Japan’s leading seismologist warned Tokyo Electric Power in June 2009 that “tsunamis of a completely different scale have come before” in the region of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. One, in 869, …

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The $600bn man

In October 2008, the blog featured the US Treasury official responsible for running the $700bn TARP rescue fund. He was 35 years old, and just 6 years out of business school. Apparently there was nobody available with more experience to …

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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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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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Investment tip of the week

Following on from the blog’s note yesterday, an investment banker reader passed on a similar insight from the high yield sector of the bond market. Currently, retail investors are desperate for income-producing assets, with global interest rates very low by …

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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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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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Restocking not the same as Recovery

Will Beacham of ICIS interviewed me yesterday in London’s Trafalgar Square. Please click above if you would like to see the discussion. Or click here if you would like to see Will’s summary on ICIS news.

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 …

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The blog in 2009

The blog is now 2.5 years old. Readership continues to grow, both within the chemical industry and its investment community. It is now read in 121 countries, and 2735 cities, versus 89 countries and 1244 cities a year ago. Readers …

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UK to tax bank bonuses at 90%

“The more things change, the more they stay the same“. Or, as the blog’s French-speaking readership might say, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose“. When the blog started work in the chemical industry, in 1978, it was possible …

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UK to tax bankers’ bonuses

UK Finance Minister Alistair Darling is widely reported today as being about to announce a ‘super-tax’ on bonuses paid to bankers working in the UK. The government’s argument, notes the BBC’s Robert Peston, is that “Investment banks are making exceptional …

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Quote of the year

“Never in the field of financial endeavour has so much money been owed by so few to so many. And, one might add, so far with little real reform.” Bank of England Governor, Mervyn King, proposing that banks should be …

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Budgeting for a new normal

2010 should be a better year for the chemical industry, as demand grows in line with a recovery in global GDP. But a quick V-shaped return to the 2003-7 Boom years in terms of volumes/margins seems unlikely. Governments will worry …

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The Latvian canary

Coal miners used to take a canary with them, to help detect poisonous fumes. If the canary stopped singing, then they knew there was a problem. This led to the concept of “the canary in the coalmine acting as a …

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G-20 in self-congratulatory mood

When the G-20 met last April, it issued a Communiqué containing just 688 words. Its Pittsburgh meeting over the weekend produced a Leader’s Statement containing 9292 words. “More” does generally not mean “better” when it comes to writing action plans. …

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Chemicals face a new reality

The blog believes that the landscape has changed during the current downturn. We came into it on the back of a major boom in consumption, supported by reckless lending and borrowing. This mind-set seems unlikely to return quickly. Instead, as …

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Lies, damn lies, and statistics

Source: Chartoftheday.com There are “lies, damn lies, and statistics” according to Mark Twain, the famous American humorist. His argument was that statistics are often (a) untrue* and (b) used without the necessary context. Last week provided a perfect example of …

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Markets in Wonderland

Picture: www.amazon.com “Sometimes, I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast” said the Queen in Lewis Carroll’s famous book, ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Today would have been a good day for her to practise this ability, as she read …

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May’s top posts

The 3 most popular posts in May were: Dow, Ineos focus on debt issues Rotterdam oil storage running out of space Green shoots likely to be yellow weeds The blog will be celebrating its 2nd birthday at the end of …

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Adultery signals for traders

My fellow-blogger, Barbara, cleverly spotted this week’s ‘Global Traders Summit’ in Singapore. Had this blog been there, it would have mentioned the latest, apparently fool-proof, way to determine stock market turning points, based on bankers’ interest in adultery. According to …

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China and US house prices

The Financial Times today highlights the overwhelming importance of falling US house prices to the outlook for the global economy. It notes that prices are now falling by 2.2%/month, causing a $380bn wealth loss in March alone. It adds that …

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Thought for the day

It is now generally accepted that reckless lending has helped cause the greatest collapse in the global economy since the Depression years of the 1930’s. Yet many bankers still maintain it is vital they continue to pursue “innovation” of the …

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Quick updates

Chrysler. Yesterday, Chrysler entered bankruptcy. It will idle most of its US plants during the court proceedings. The government hopes the bankruptcy can be finalised in a “quick visit” of just 30-60 days. But even if this can be achieved, …

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