The litmus test for the global economy

US ethylene prices near all-time lows as over-capacity arrives

US ethylene spot prices are tumbling as the major new shale gas expansions come on line, as the chart based on ICIS pricing data confirms: They began the year at $617/t, but have since more than halved to $270/t on Friday They are only around 10% higher than their all-time low of $240/t in September […]

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Goodbye to “business as usual” model for plastics

Polymer markets face two major challenges in coming months. The most immediate is the arrival of the major US shale gas-based ethylene and polyethylene expansions. The longer-term, but equally critical challenge, comes from growing public concern over plastic waste, particularly in the ocean. The EU has set out its vision for a new plastics economy, where: “All plastic packaging is reusable or […]

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Global smartphone sales slide 9% in Q4, as China tumbles 16%

Global smartphone sales have seen major growth until recently as consumers fell in love with going mobile, as the chart shows: In the critical Q4 period they jumped from 290m in 2013 to 380m in 2014, 405m in 2015 and 439m in 2016 But they then fell 9% in Q4 last year, according to Strategy […]

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Sustainability now the key driver for plastics industry profits

‘What is this block of waste plastic doing on an Arctic ice-floe’, thousand of miles from where it was manufactured?  Even more worrying is the question, ‘what will happen to it next?’  As David Attenborough’s ‘Blue Planet II‘ programmes have shown, plastic can break down into micro-particles after it has been used.  And these micro-particles […]

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Basic Skills, not protectionism, key to sustaining today’s High Income, Services-based economies

Suddenly, manufacturing and protectionism have become political issues across the Western world.  President Trump has already formed a Manufacturing Council with the aim of “reshoring jobs” from outside the USA, and is threatening to introduce import duties of up to 45%. The problem, however, as the chart shows, is that this will not help the people who […]