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

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

The global economy’s best leading indicator forecasts a downturn

If you want to know what is happening to the global economy, the chemical industry will provide the answers. It has an excellent correlation with IMF data, and also benefits from the fact it has no “political bias”.  It simply tells us what is happening in real-time in the world’s 3rd largest industry.  The chart […]

Q1 auto sales rise just 1.9% in world’s ‘Top 7′ markets

Its hard to be optimistic about the outlook for the global auto market.  The chart above of the Top 7 markets, which account for around 2/3rds of global sales, highlights the growing uncertainty.  It shows Q1 sales in 2015 (blue column) versus 2014 (blue).  Overall, these were up just 1.9% at 15.8m.  And although the […]

Volatility rises as central bank policies prove wishful thinking

Q1 was very difficult for many companies and investors.  They had wanted to believe since 2009 that central banks could somehow control the global economy: The oil price would always be $100/bbl The US $ would always remain weak Central banks would always be able to stimulate growth in the economy Stock markets would always go up in the […]

Global stock markets still depend on low-cost money for support

The blog’s 6-monthly review of global stock markets highlights the narrow nature of the advance since September 2008, when the blog first began analysing developments.  It shows their performance since the pre-Crisis peak for each market, and the performance of the US 30-year Treasury bond. Remarkably, only the US, India, Germany and the UK stock markets […]

India’s WTO veto marks end of global trade deals

The Cycle of Deflation has taken another lurch forward.  The reason was India’s decision to veto last year’s Bali deal to streamline customs procedures.  Almost certainly, this will prove the dying effort of the World Trade Organisation, which sponsored the proposal. The blog is particularly sad at this outcome.  It has always believed that free […]

Global auto industry sales growth depends on China

Autos remain the world’s largest manufacturing industry, and the single biggest source of demand for chemicals and plastics.  According to detailed analysis by the American Chemistry Council, each new US auto is worth $3,539 in terms of sales – and involves a wide range of products including antifreeze, plastic dashboards, bumpers and windows, as well as upholstery […]

Benzene markets suggest BabyBoomer growth will not reappear

Benzene has always been one of the blog’s favourite leading indicators for the global economy.  The reason is simple, in that it has been around a long time, and is now used in a very wide range of industries.  So it provides us with a broad-based picture of the global economy. The chart above highlights another important […]

US PVC exports see only modest growth despite shale gas advantage

The casual observer might be forgiven for imagining that the US ethylene industry should be seeing its biggest export boom of recent decades.  Its ethane feedstock cost is back at its normal 25c-30c/gal range of a decade ago, whilst its …

US employment growth, disposable income, weaken again

June has typically been the seasonal peak for US employment.  July’s data continued this trend, as the chart shows: The July figure was 135.6m, compared to 136.8m in June (blue column) It is still well below 2007′s peak of 139.1m This is the first time jobs have been lower over a 4 year period since records began in […]

Risks rise over China’s auto sales

The world’s 3 major auto markets – USA, Europe and China – currently account for ~70% of global sales. And as the chart above shows, H1 performance has been volatile over the 2005-11 period:

• 2005 was the last year of the US subprime boom, and the…

U is for Uncertainty

The blog’s series on the emerging ‘VUCA world’ today looks at how companies have to manage increased levels of Uncertainty. This can be seen in key areas of demand, such as housing.

The above chart shows how US housing starts (blue line) have fallen …

EU faces US competition in PVC export markets

The blog continues this week’s special series on chloralkali and PVC markets by looking at EU developments on PVC.

Historically the EU has had strong export positions into markets such as Turkey and Russia, which lack major local production. More rec…

Shale gas supports US PVC exports

Yesterday the blog discussed caustic soda, and the recent importance of China’s metal demand. Today it focuses on chlorine and PVC.

PVC is the largest end-use for chlorine. It is also critical for chloralkali producers when caustic demand is strong,…

US, China, EU auto sales up just 1% in Q1

Autos are the largest single market for chemical and polymer sales. And the USA, China and EU are the 3 largest markets, accounting for 2/3rds of global sales last year.

Disappointingly, as the above chart shows, their sales were up just 1% overall…

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…

Auto sales have slow start in January

January was not a great month for auto sales in the 3 major markets of the USA, EU and China. These amount to over 50% of global auto sales, and are a key indicator of underlying consumer demand.

As the chart shows, sales were just 3m (red square), d…

US PE exporters face more competition in Brazil

As promised, the blog looks today at the performance of US polyethylene (PE) exporters in Brazil.

It was the fastest-growing of the major markets in 2011, as the wider economy benefitted from China’s demand. Since 2008, Brazil’s PE net imports have…

Global auto sales growth stalls as BabyBoomers age

Cars are now the largest single market for chemical sales, as housing markets have slowed globally. Each new US car is worth $3297, for example, according to the American Chemistry Council (ACC), making the US market worth $42bn in 2011.

2011 auto …

2012 sees rising political risk, and protectionism

The world enjoyed an economic SuperCycle between 1982-2007. Its largest economy, the USA, suffered just 16 months of recession during the whole 25 years.

As a result, social and political issues took a back-seat. Politicians instead competed to occu…

China’s subsidy end boosts September’s auto sales

Auto sales in the key global markets of China, USA and Europe present a mixed picture as we look towards year-end (red square):

• China had a strong September, and sales are now up 6% versus 2010
• But the Auto Association claimed this was due to …

US, China, EU auto sales stall

Auto sales in the world’s 3 main markets (China, USA, EU), saw much slower growth in the past 3 months.

The chart above shows how they have moved in 2011 (red square) versus previous years. It is clear that the stimulus-led boom seen since 2009 has c…