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Europe's Chemical Sector Stalls Confidence Declined. Sales Flat. Surplus Down: Hard Times for EU Chemicals

| Editor: Dominik Stephan

Europe's chemical industry can not gain momentum: Production remained flat for the first half of 2014, recent figures of the industry association Cefic indicate. The continent's industry has a hard time to keep pace with energy and feedstock-rich regions like the US and Middle East, association director adery says.

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Output stalls for EU chemicals sector in first seven months 2014
Output stalls for EU chemicals sector in first seven months 2014
(Picture: Cefic)

European chemicals production was flat in the first seven months of 2014, according to the latest Cefic Chemicals Trends Report. Output in production volumes contracted again in July. Three consecutive months of output decline have undone gains during the first four months of the year.

Chemicals prices were lower, whilst the value of sales levels during the first seven months of the year remained unchanged. Net exports of EU chemicals reached €22.5 billion for first half 2014, slipping somewhat from last year’s all time record. By end-July, European chemicals sales were only 1.0 per cent above the peak achieved six years ago, in 2008.

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“Difficult to Compete with US and Middle East”

Cefic Director General Hubert Mandery said: “We are facing headwinds. Sector growth is flat, and our EU net chemicals trade surplus is beginning to narrow. It is difficult to compete in a global marketplace with energy and feedstock-rich regions like the US and Middle East. It is high time for our policymakers to put national and European energy policies in order.

Overall chemicals output declined 0.1 per cent between January and July compared to the same months of 2013. Year-on-year, July data show EU chemicals output declining for the third time after eight consecutive months of growth. Only consumer chemicals and specialty chemicals escaped the fall: output from all other subsectors was lower in July 2014 than in July 2013.

Petrochemicals output continued to slide, down 6.5 per cent during the first seven months of 2014 compared to the same period the previous year. This decline was partially offset by 3.3 per cent output growth for specialty chemicals and a 1.5 per cent uptick in consumer chemicals. Year-on-year, polymers grew by 0.4 per cent, whilst basic inorganics edged up slightly by 0.2 per cent.

Year-on-Year Prices Down 1.7 Percent

Prices continued to show marginal declines in August 2014, falling 0.8 per cent compared with the same month last year. Petrochemical prices dropped 0.6 per cent during August, bringing the markdown during the first eight months of the year to 2.8 per cent, year-on-year. Plastics prices were up 0.3 per cent in August 2014 compared to August 2013. Prices were flat for consumer chemicals. EU chemical producer prices slipped 1.7 per cent for the first eight months of 2014 compared to the same period the year before.

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