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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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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“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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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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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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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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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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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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5 key questions for success in the New Normal

Sustainability rather than globalisation is becoming the key driver for business. And the paradigm shift this creates means that companies need to adopt new Critical Success Factors as shown above. Leadership skills will be essential at all levels of the organisation in order to stimulate the creativity and action orientation required for success. There are

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’,

Chart of the Year – CAPE Index signals negative S&P 500 returns to 2030

Each year, it seems there is only one candidate for Chart of the Year. And 2020 is no exception. It has to be the CAPE Index developed by Nobel Prize winner, Prof Robert Shiller.  As the chart shows, it is nearly at an all-time high with Tesla’s addition to the S&P 500. Only the peak

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 

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

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

“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

Welcome to the New Normal – a look ahead to 2030

10 years ago, I took a look ahead at what we could expect in the next decade, as discussed last week. Unfortunately, we now face the major economic and social crises that the chart predicted, if policymakers continued with ‘business as usual’. This week, I want to look ahead at what we can expect to

If you don’t want to know the future, look away now

Next week, I will publish my annual Budget Outlook, covering the 2021-2023 period. It will highlight how the pandemic is accelerating major paradigm shifts in society, politics and the global economy. I have been publishing these Outlooks since 2007, and they disprove the idea that forecasting is a waste of time.  They highlight instead most

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

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 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

Financial markets enter their Convulsion phase

Many companies and investors are still comparing today’s downturn to the 9-month hiccups seen after the 1990/91 Gulf War and the 2000/1 dotcom crash. In reality, however, this is wishful thinking, as the IMF highlighted last week in its World Economic Outlook: “The Great Lockdown: Worst Economic Downturn Since the Great Depression” One key question,

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

“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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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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

China’s G20 shutdowns will impact global economy

Imagine your government decided to shutdown most of the industry in two major cities for 2 weeks or more?  Say Detroit and Chicago in the US, or Milan and Turin in Italy, or Leeds and Manchester in the UK.  Now you will have some idea of the scale of the shutdowns being mandated in China […]

US home-ownership returns to 1960′s levels

US home ownership is back at levels seen briefly in the mid-1980s, and before that in the mid-1960s.  One key issue today is that while the US population is still growing, the younger population has quite a different profile from the Boomer generation, as the Pew Institute have reported. In 1980, only 1 in 10 young Boomers were […]

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 […]

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 […]

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

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

Q3 results suggest need for new strategies, business models

Global chemical production growth continues to slow from the peak of 3.7% seen in April 2014.  September’s reading from the American Chemistry Council was down to 3%, with most major regions showing a decline: Asia has halved from 6.4% to 3.2%; ME/Africa has fallen from 6.1% to 3.5%; Latin America is negative at -3.2% W […]

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 – […]

The “China Chill” slows global economy and petrochemicals

There were record numbers at last week’s European Petrochemical Association annual meeting in Berlin.  But most of the 2900 attendees were in subdued mood.  Once again, it seems, the industry has chosen to sanction vast new investment at the top of the cycle, and will now suffer the consequences as it all comes online at […]

China focuses on mobile internet for domestic growth

China’s President Xi went to Seattle at the start of his recent US visit, to meet the leading US internet companies.  It was the clearest possible signal of his priorities for the future of China’s economy under his New Normal policies.  He spent half a day on the Microsoft campus, and had a private dinner […]

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” […]

“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 […]

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 […]

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 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, […]

China auto sales rise just 1% as New Normal slowdown bites

The above chart was my Chart of the Year last December, under the title “China’s auto sales bubble begins to burst‘.  So it seems only sensible to update developments 6 months later. The key question, of course, is whether my headline was right?  Could it be that China was not going to deliver endless growth […]

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) […]

The great ‘Deflation Shock’ is coming closer

  The world is about to be hit by a demand shock equivalent to 1973′s supply shock.  Yet, astonishingly, most commentators remain so focused on central bank activity, that they have completely missed what is happening.  Here’s how it is playing out. You may remember the ‘The pH Report‘ forecast in early December that: “Oil prices […]

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 […]

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, […]

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 […]

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 […]

European companies missing a major growth opportunity

We all know that the European economy is in a bad way.   Sales and incomes are under pressure, and political risk is rising, whilst unemployment remains at high levels.  Its very easy to get depressed about the outlook. We are also unlikely to get much help from policymakers.  They remain in their world of mathematical models.  These […]

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 […]

Bond investors embrace the 3 Normals

Sometimes the blog gets lucky with its timing.  That was certainly the case when it spoke to the world’s leading bond investors last week.  Just an hour before, they had been shocked by news that US GDP had fallen by 2.9% in Q1, far worse than earlier estimates.  And nobody believed the official excuse that […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Syngenta aims to gow more food with less fertiliser, pesticides

One of the key chapters in ‘Boom, Gloom and the New Normal’ is titled ‘Doing More with Less’. It argues that the key need is to be practical.  Companies should focus: In the fields of water/food, on reducing the amount of waste, and the output that is lost when product is moving to market In developing […]

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 […]

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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

US shale gas – ‘its a demand thing’

The 25 years of the BabyBoomer demand supercycle between 1983-2007 cover the careers of most people in the industry. Over this quarter-century, we all grew to accept that low-cost and reliable supply was key to success. Demand would always take care …

Sustaining Growth as the West Arrives at the Demographic Cliff

Are you worried about the economic outlook for your company, for your family and for your country? Do you suspect that current policies may be doing more harm than good? Are you interested in exploring a new analysis that focuses on the importance …

Upcoming presentations on New Normal themes

The blog is delighted to have been asked to address a wide variety of industry and investor conferences over the next few months.

The arguments of our ‘Boom, Gloom and the New Normal’ eBook are clearly starting to make sense to an increasing number …

Pimco says demographics turning boom to bust

The head of Pimco, the world’s largest bond fund managers, provides influential support this month for the blog’s argument in ‘Boom, Gloom and the New Normal’ about the importance of today’s demographic changes. Bill Gross comments as follows in his …

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…

Companies need to plan for slower global growth

As promised, the blog looks today at the business implications of population ageing and slower economic growth. The chart shows official US household expenditure data, by category. The overall message is clear: spending peaks by the age of 55 years, …

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…

Fashion discovers the New Old 55+ generation

Slowly, consumer markets are waking up the fact that youth markets have gone ex-growth in the developed world. Instead, the New Old 55+ generation is the growth market,

As fashion editor Vanessa Friedman notes, a new film ‘About Face’ typifies the …

80 is the new 60, as youth markets go ex-growth

The G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, USA) account for nearly 50% of global GDP. Today, however, their populations are ageing rapidly.

As consultants AT Kearney (ATK) note in a report on consumer spending patterns:

• The G…

US consumers enter the New Normal

The chart above opens chapter 7 of ‘Boom, Gloom and the New Normal’, which looks at the changes taking place in consumer markets.

June’s US retail sales provide clear evidence of the trends it describes:

• They grew at the slowest pace in 2 years…

Most pension funds have negative returns since 2007

The chart above should be of great interest to anyone who hopes to retire on a pension. It should also be required reading for any executives planning their business portfolio for the future.

Published by the Financial Times, it shows the actual perf…

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…

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…

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…

US PE exports down 39% despite shale gas

Globalisation had a golden age between 1982-2007. Trade barriers fell almost everywhere. Companies focused on achieving a ‘lowest cost’ position, in order to maximise their competitive advantage.

Today, however, the world is starting to look quite d…

New policies needed to restore growth

Politicians seem to be floundering as they seek to restore growth to the Western economy. Their prescriptions swing between austerity and economic stimulus as they argue over what has gone wrong.

But in chapter 10 of our Boom, Gloom & The New Normal…

"Old age" becomes a major cost for UK taxpayers

Taxes, like death, are inevitable. But very few people have much idea of how their money is spent.

Thus the blog applauds the UK government’s decision this week to send every taxpayer a ‘receipt’ showing the key spending areas (chapter 5, for those …

Housing debt challenges the American Dream

The US housing market collapse has wiped out $6tn in wealth since it began in 2006. But even today, little is being done to solve the critical issue – that homeowners took on too much debt, which will never be repaid.

As a result, the situation conti…

The changing landscape for manufacturers

The New Normal involves three major transformations in the nature of consumer markets:

• The increasing size of the New Old 55+ age group in the West
• Too many young people struggling with higher unemployment
• Large number of people moving ou…

US housing discovers New Normal opportunities

The US housing market was the original cause of the current financial crisis. It has gone quiet recently, but this does not mean that the problems are resolved. Quite the opposite, in fact.

True, foreclosures have slowed recently, due to legal issue…

Doing More with Less – the products of the future

The global economy is moving into a difficult period, as it transitions to the New Normal. Debt levels are high, and incomes are under pressure, particularly for the large numbers of people moving into retirement.

Cost must be the key criteria when…

New Year brings major new opportunities

Human beings are by nature optimistic. Otherwise our ancestors wouldn’t have bothered to climb out of the swamps, all those years ago, in the hope there was ‘something better’ to be found.

Equally, we don’t usually give up at the first sign that some…

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’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…

Pensions fall as financial market turmoil continues

Increasing life expectancy is an enormous benefit for today’s population. We can all, whether in developed or developing countries, expect to live a decade or more longer than our grandparents’ generation.

Yet pension systems haven’t adapted to thi…

BabyBoomers change the markets

Consumption dominates chemical demand. Chapter 7 of our new ‘Boom, Gloom and the New Normal’ eBook therefore looks at the changes taking place in consumer markets. These provide vital insight into how chemical markets are likely to develop in the New…

US farmland enters the New Normal

The downturn in the US housing market is turning out to have a silver lining, according to the Wall Street Journal.

It describes how farmers in some areas are now able to buy back land previously sold for housing development, and return it to agricult…

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…

Bayer, Shell and Styrolution to speak in Amsterdam

Our 10th European Aromatics and derivatives conference will take place on 22-23 November.

Co-organised with ICIS, it provides an excellent opportunity for delegates to meet up and exchange views in the critical end-of-year period.

It features the …

Risks rise over future growth in China and India

Many chemical companies now believe it is inevitable that China and India will reach developed economy status. Some even believe that their strong growth will mean “the end of economic cycles”.

But as we discuss in chapter 6 of ‘Boom, Gloom and the …

Lower earnings, pensions, hit US consumers

Wall Street analysts have their bonuses to consider at this time of year. So it is no surprise that they are talking up the prospects for the Christmas season – the peak shopping period of the year in the West.

But those involved in shipping goods do…

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…

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…

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…

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 …

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…

The blog in the Financial Times today

The Financial Times kindly prints a letter from the blog today, under the headline “The golden age of the baby boomers is gone – for ever”.

It summarises the key ideas in its new eBook, Boom, Gloom and the New Normal, co-authored with John Richardson….

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…

Boom, Gloom and the New Normal goes mainstream

Readers will no doubt be pleased to see that Bloomberg have today published a major article on the likely changes in demand patterns due to the ageing of the Western babyboomers.

Its title, ‘Aging Baby Boomers Shrinking Labor Force May Curb U.S. Growt…

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…

Investors rush to save with the JUUGS

Most of us have now heard of the PIIGS countries (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain). They are the ones causing the Eurozone debt crisis.

Today, the blog introduces the JUUGS (Japan, UK, USA, Germany, Switzerland). These are the major countrie…

Don’t try this at home…

Yesterday’s blog photo (of men sitting on planks to paint the outside of an apartment block), has led my engineering colleague, Andy Gibbins, to pass on the above link to his Top 10 video list of things you really don’t …

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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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A new way of travelling light

As a very frequent traveller, the blog was intrigued by a flight attendant’s tip for packing more clothes, without creases, in a carry-on bag. The above photo from the New York Times shows her system, which involves rolling clothes tightly, …

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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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Webinar recording now available

If you missed the blog’s recent webinar, Simon Robinson (ICIS online editor) has kindly posted a recording of it. To access this, you just need to join the new ICIS Chemicals and the Economy Group by clicking here.

Thanks

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

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 …

The zeitgeist changes Read More