new normal

Samsung stumbles in global smartphone market as Xiaomi overtakes Apple

Smartphone sales confirm that global markets are continuing to pivot to the New Normal world. Back in 2014, Samsung dominated with its middle market positioning. But since then, its position has been squeezed as the market polarises between low-cost Chinese suppliers and Apple’s focus on adding services. Every third smartphone used to be a Samsung.

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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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Europe’s Green Deal will transform its economy, as floods confirm urgency of tackling climate change Read More

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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Oil markets, OPEC, enter the endgame for the Age of Oil

2 major events shocked oil markets last week. They marked the start of (a) the endgame for the Age of Oil and (b) the paradigm shift to the Circular Economy and the new Age of Energy Abundance.  The new ‘Net Zero by 2050’ report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) was the first shock: It

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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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Biden’s Earth Day Summit puts plastics recycling on the fast track

Plastics has long been the ‘odd one out’ in terms of recycling. Steel, aluminium, glass, cardboard, rubber and paper routinely have up to a 70% rate of recycling. But plastics has been stuck at around 10% for a long time. President Biden’s Earth Day Summit is likely to change this picture, and quickly. The reason

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Biden’s Earth Day Summit puts plastics recycling on the fast track 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

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

Americans hunker down on spending as the pandemic’s impact continues

US stock markets have been hitting new records recently, as investors swoon over the likelihood that the $1400 stimulus payments will power a major surge in consumer spending. But unfortunately, the facts show this is most unlikely. The chart from the New York Federal Reserve measures consumers’ intentions with regards to the 3 stimulus cheques

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Americans hunker down on spending as the pandemic’s impact continues Read More

Circular economy set to replace today’s broken global supply chains

The Great Freeze in Texas has confirmed once again the problems with today’s global supply chains.  As the New York Times has highlighted: “The pandemic has disrupted every stage of the (supply chain) journey”. The problems began last year with the disruption to the global shipping container system. Millions of containers were used to ship

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Circular economy set to replace today’s broken global supply chains 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

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Rising US interest rates, US$ and oil prices set to pressure financial markets

Everyone who has ever played the Beer Distribution Game on a training course knows what is happening in supply chains today. A small increase in underlying demand is rapidly leading to a massive increase in ‘apparent demand’. As the New York Times reports, “the pandemic has disrupted every stage of the (supply chain) journey.”  And

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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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Smartphone sales highlight new trends in consumer markets

Smartphone markets continue to provide early warning of the major changes taking place in consumer markets. And Q4 data confirms the old rules are becoming less and less relevant:  As the chart shows, market positioning is now all-important. Apple are stretching their lead in the ‘sweet spot’ of the value chain – design – and

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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

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Buyers scramble for product as global supply chains breakdown

Asian LNG prices reached $32.50/MMBTU this month, up from less than $2/MMBTU in June. The Shanghai Containerised Freight Index hit $8000/TEU container (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit), up from prior rates of $1500/TEU. In Europe, UK supermarkets have warned of containing food shortages in N Ireland due to the new Brexit trading rules. None of this would

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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

US chemical companies face ‘wake-up call’ as Biden focuses on the Climate Change agenda

I worked for many years at a world-leading chemical company, ICI. But sadly, it lost its way as senior management began to focus more on financial metrics than market developments. In 2007, it disappeared. Today, other companies including the once-mighty ExxonMobil risk making similar mistakes: EM was the world’s most valuable company just 9 years ago It 

US chemical companies face ‘wake-up call’ as Biden focuses on the Climate Change agenda 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

Plastics producers face a ‘wake-up call’ from both ends of the value chain

Plastics producers have had a great run over the past 60 years, as demand took off for their products. But now globalisation is being replaced by sustainability, and they risk being left with an out-of-date business model, and falling revenues. Upstream, refinery closures are gathering pace as electric vehicle sales accelerate Downstream, brand owners and

Plastics producers face a ‘wake-up call’ from both ends of the value chain Read More

“We may be opponents, but we are not enemies, we’re all Americans”

Groundhog Day 2, last week’s made-for-TV movie set in Pennsylvania, was the perfect lockdown choice. Every morning, one could check the vote tallies. And every evening one could go to bed, knowing that the same screens would be repeating in the morning. Until, eventually, we finally awoke this morning, like Bill Murray in the original

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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 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

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

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

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IKEA heads into the circular world with furniture subscription trial

“Once upon a time, Granny and Grandad used to go to a large shop on the motorway to buy their furniture. They used to stagger around carrying Billy bookshelves and Dombas wardrobes, before treating themselves to Swedish meatballs in the canteen. And then Grandad would spend the rest of the weekend trying to assemble the

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“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. […]

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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

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The blog’s 14th birthday – and the New Normal world it predicted has arrived 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 […]

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Trump policies to impact global supply chains, US stock markets

Wall Street’s post-election rally suggests that many investors currently have the wrong idea about Donald Trump. They have decided he is a new Ronald Reagan, with policies that will deliver a major bull market. But those promoting this narrative have forgotten their history. Both men certainly share a link with the entertainment industry. But Reagan […]

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Today’s New Normal world – the challenge of the 100-year life

2016 saw the start of the Great Reckoning for the failure of stimulus policies. Political and social issues are now beginning to dominate the landscape.  As we saw in the UK’s Brexit vote to leave the European Union, voters no longer see economics as the sole issue in elections.  This paradigm shift was then followed […]

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Industry needs new strategy to spread benefits of globalisation

The Brexit vote, and Donald Trump’s election, confirm that we are in a New Normal world.  In the interview below with Will Beacham, Deputy editor of ICIS Chemical Business, I highlight some ideas about how industry needs to adapt. BARCELONA (ICIS)–The global chemical sector needs to stimulate demand for innovative products and services in mature […]

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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 […]

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Auto sales slump in Japan, Brazil and Russia as China slows

China’s slowdown is continuing to reverberate around the world.  One way of measuring this is to look at auto sales in countries closely linked to China’s market such as Japan, Russia and Brazil.  As the chart shows, they did well during China’s stimulus period, but they are struggling now.  By comparison, more self-sufficient India has […]

Auto sales slump in Japan, Brazil and Russia as China slows Read More

China’s car market: triple shock ahead

Auto manufacturers, their suppliers and investors need to prepare themselves for a triple shock from China’s slowing economy, as I describe in my latest post for the Financial Times, published on the BeyondBrics blog The first shock is already under way. As the chart shows, China’s slowdown has caused passenger car volumes to decline in the Bric economies – […]

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China’s PP production rises 25% as it moves into higher-value export markets

Everyone is now beginning to notice the change in economic policy in China.  And concern is rising about the outlook for all those new petchem investments about to come online, whose rationale has been the need to supply ever-increasing growth in Chinese demand.  The chart above highlights the reality behind this wishful thinking: Everyone “knew” […]

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“If the lips are gone, the teeth will be cold”: China’s New Normal policies require companies to undertake radical strategy reviews

Wishful thinking can be terribly dangerous for company profits.  Taken to extremes, it can lead them into bankruptcy. Recent developments in China thus make it essential for every company to immediately review its strategy for doing business in/with the country, against a realistic outlook for 2016-2018 GDP growth will likely be zero, and could well […]

“If the lips are gone, the teeth will be cold”: China’s New Normal policies require companies to undertake radical strategy reviews Read More

China’s collapsing stock market underlines need for New Normal reforms

My latest post for the Financial Times, published on the BeyondBrics blog is below  | Jul 27 15:08 | Red is a lucky colour in China, which is why share price displays go red when prices are rising. A green display means prices are falling, the opposite to stock markets elsewhere. There is a similar discontinuity between the short-term impact […]

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China’s new car market goes ex-growth as used car sales take off

My latest post for the Financial Times, published on the BeyondBrics blog is below |Jun 30 17:45 By Paul Hodges of International eChem Major structural change is under way in China’s passenger car market. New car sales grew just 1.2 per cent in May, as the country develops a used car market for the first time in its history. […]

China’s new car market goes ex-growth as used car sales take off Read More

China’s lending, electricity consumption continues to slow

‘Bad news’ seems to have become ‘good news’ as far as China’s economy is concerned.  In the past, most analysts simply ignored the possibility of a major slowdown.  Now that the slowdown is underway, they still ignore it  – this time, because they are sure further stimulus is just around the corner. But time passes, […]

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Sinopec confirms move into China’s New Normal economy

Sinopec, China’s largest chemical company, has just published its operating results for 2014.  We don’t yet have all the details, but the chart above highlights the key points of its cumulative performance since it first filed public accounts in 1998: It has invested Rmb 288bn ($41bn) in capital expenditure for refining, and Rmb 239bn ($33bn) for chemicals (blue columns) […]

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Budgeting for the Cycle of Deflation

There is no “business as usual” scenario possible for the 2015-2017 Budget period.  Over the past 15 years (since the ”dotcom bubble” burst in 2000), policymakers have provided increasing amounts of stimulus to support the economy.  Now, finally, we are in the endgame, as the Great Unwinding takes place. This presents us all with major challenges: Most executives and investors under […]

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The Great Unwinding of policymaker stimulus is under way

The blog’s latest post for the Financial Times, published on the BeyondBrics blog is below.Oct 20, 2014 10:48am By Paul Hodges of International eChem Two months ago, very few people believed that markets were about to tumble. But on 18 August we published our Great Unwinding analysis. Since then, its forecasts have begun to come true, […]

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Great Unwinding sees prices tumble

World markets have seen major falls since the Great Unwinding of policymaker stimulus began 2 months ago. Naturally, chemical markets have taken some of the biggest hits, given the industry’s role as a leading indicator for the global economy.  From today, the blog is therefore updating its regular chart (above) to focus on this impact: The biggest loser has been PTA in […]

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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 […]

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Sinopec & China arrive in New Normal of low growth and profit

Sinopec is China’s largest chemical producer and its second largest refiner.  The blog’s annual review of its published Results confirms its uniqueness in global markets. The numbers confirm that it remains focused on increasing production, not profit.  It will be No 2 in global ethylene capacity next year as a result.  The chart above highlights the key metrics, based […]

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The blog’s 7th birthday

Who would have believed the blog would still be here, 7 years after it began with a post from Thailand in June 2007?  Who would have believed the range of developments that have appeared for it to discuss over this period? It started at the end of the SuperCycle as central banks pumped cash into the […]

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China’s president highlights ‘new normal’ of economic growth

China’s President Xi Jinping became the first world leader to highlight the move into a “new normal” at the weekend: “China is still in a significant period of strategic opportunity. We must boost our confidence, adapt to the new normal condition based on the characteristics of China’s economic growth in the current phase and stay cool-minded” “Through […]

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German New Olders have cash to spend, but few companies bother with their needs

Germany is the world’s 4th largest economy ($3.4tn), and so is the next to be studied in the blog’s series on the impact of demographics.  Its population is almost as old as Japan’s: Germany’s median age is 45.7 years, compared with Japan at 45.8 years.  The reason is shown in the chart above: German women have […]

German New Olders have cash to spend, but few companies bother with their needs Read More

Lessons from Grangemouth – how Europe can revive its industrial base

Sometimes a crisis can concentrate minds on one key issue.  This was certainly the case last week, when the blog was part of the tense debate over the future of the INEOS petrochemical plant at Grangemouth, Scotland involving the UK and Scottish governments, INEOS and the UNITE union.  The experience highlighted some critical learnings for the future of […]

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2014 Budgets need to abandon hopes of Supercycle return

Next week the blog will publish its 6th annual Budget Outlook, covering the 2014-2016 period.    The aim has always been to challenge conventional wisdom when this seems likely to encourage companies to take a wrong turn: • The blog’s 2007 Outlook ‘Budgeting for a Downturn‘, and its 2008 ‘Budgeting for Survival’, meant it was one of […]

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Demographics has “frightening implications” for the economy

The blog first wrote about the potential impact on GDP growth of changing demographics in January 2010, in its first White Paper, ‘Budgeting for a New Normal’  This put forward the Scenario that the world economy could face an: “L-shaped recovery, where we follow the pattern of the Japanese economy after its ‘financial bubble’ burst in 1990. […]

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Time again to ‘Manage by Walking About’

Different times demand different skills.  During the SuperCycle, one could assume growth was a constant.  So forecasting meant a focus on better understanding developments down the value chain in the relevant product silos.  Then managers could be set ‘stretch targets’ to ensure they met expectations for revenue and profit growth. But today, as the blog has […]

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The blog on CNBC Africa

The blog was interviewed on CNBC Africa’s ‘Beyond Markets’ programme last week, during its visit to AECI in Johannesburg. Hosted by Karema Brown, the programme focuses on the news that drives markets across the continent.

The 3 minute interview dis…

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The end of constant growth

“You cannot just sit back and expect things to happen the way they have happened in the past, especially in emerging markets.”

This insight from a senior Hong Kong-based executive with a global polyethylene (PE) producer highlights the risks faced by…

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The blog’s 5th birthday

The blog today celebrates its fifth birthday. Its 1400 posts since the June 2007 launch have covered a wide range of subjects. And one thing is certainly true. There has never been a shortage of topics to cover.

Readership has also continued to gro…

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A Call to Action

We are about to set out on a great journey as the world transitions to the New Normal.

The reason for the journey is that the world economy has changed irrevocably as a result of the financial crisis and the demand changes created by the aging of the…

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A road map for success

The new chapter of our free ‘Boom, Gloom and the New Normal’ ebook sets out a road map to success for companies in the New Normal. It also identifies 5 key areas where major change is already underway.

Demand-driven. Markets have essentially bee…

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The blog in 2011

The blog celebrated its 100,000th visit during 2011. Its readership also continued to increase, and now covers 142 countries and 5992 cities. The map shows the major centres of readership, which include all the main petchem hubs.

Readers also remain…

The blog in 2011 Read More

The blog’s Christmas Quiz

Its now 3 years since the Great Recession began.

US GDP is still below previous peaks, despite $5trn of stimulus spending and quantitative easing.

The position in the Eurozone is even worse.

China’s economy will be lucky to escape with a ‘soft l…

The blog’s Christmas Quiz Read More

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 to confront reality

Peggy Noonan is the blog’s favourite political correspondent. She used to be President Reagan’s speechwriter, so nobody can accuse her of being a ‘socialist’ or ‘doomsayer’.

Recently, she has been writing some very important columns in the Wall Stree…

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When I’m 64

Will you still need me? Will you still feed me? The Beatles asked the right questions back in 1967, when singing ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ on their iconic Sergeant Pepper album.

What would happen to the Western BabyBoomers when they became 64? Would …

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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…

August highlights Read More

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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Ralf Kuhlmann joins IeC

The blog is pleased to announce that Dr Ralf Kuhlmann is joining International eChem (IeC) as a Senior Vice President. He was previously Business Director, Basic Chemicals, with ExxonMobil Europe, where he was responsible for Marketing & Sales, Planning, Feedstock,

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Sledging in London

It doesn’t often snow in London. And when it does, it usually melts quickly. In fact, the last really severe winter was in 1980, and before that 1963. So I thought you might like to see a picture of the

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Thanks

Many thanks to everyone who joined the Webinar today. I hope you found it useful.

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The zeitgeist changes

The German word ‘Zeitgeist’ describes ‘the ethos or mood’ of a select group of people. And the financial zeitgeist is clearly changing. Back in August, I marvelled at the contradictory views then being expressed: ‘We see a lot of people

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