Chemical Industry European Chemicals Production Stagnates as Growth Curve Flattens

Editor: Dominik Stephan

Chemical production in Europe grows by only 0.3 percent compared to August 2014. Only a drop in producer prices saves the branch from falling victim to sinking sales figures, recent Cefic data shows.

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Flat output growth and low prices continue to impact chemicals sales
Flat output growth and low prices continue to impact chemicals sales
(Picture: PROCESS)

Brussels/Belgium – European chemical output grew by only 0.3 percent during the first eight months of 2015 compared to the same period of 2014, according to the latest Cefic Chemicals Trends Report, while producer prices fell 4.5 percent, year-on-year. Sales were down 3.0 percent during January-July 2015, compared to the same period of 2014. Latest monthly data indicate output growth of 0.8 per cent in August 2015 compared with August 2014, while EU chemicals prices dropped 4.0 percent. The EU net trade surplus was € 27.2 billion during the first seven months of 2015, widening by € 1.6 billion compared to the same period one year ago.

Stagnant Output Growth through August 2015

Petrochemicals output continued to slide in August 2015, down a significant 4.9 per cent compared with August 2014. Polymers fell by 0.5 per cent during the same period. The drop was partially offset by 5.1 per cent growth in output of consumer chemicals. Basic inorganics and specialty chemicals generated considerable output growth of about 2.4 per cent. By and large, EU chemicals output grew – just 0.8 per cent in August 2015 year-on-year – and for the first eight months was up just 0.3 per cent compared to same period of 2014.

Petrochemicals prices declined by 10.4 per cent in August 2015 compared to the same month of 2014. Polymers prices recorded a modest decrease of 0.4 per cent in August 2015 compared to same month one year ago. Specialty chemicals experienced the same range of price decline as polymers during the same period. Consumer chemicals prices went up by 0.9 per cent during the same month. Overall, producer prices in the EU chemicals sector declined 4.0 per cent in August 2015 (year-on-year). Lastly, chemicals prices were down 4.5 per cent during the first eight months of 2015 compared to the same period one year ago.

Chemical Sales Down 3.0 Down During First Half of 2015

Total EU chemical sales dropped 3.0 per cent during the first seven months of 2015 compared to the same periode one year ago. Sales in July 2015 declined by 1 per cent compared to June 2014, reaching the same level of sales as in July 2014.

The EU net trade surplus was €27.2 billion during the first seven months of 2015, expanding by €1.6 billion compared to the same period one year ago. The net positive trade balance through July 2015 with non-EU countries – a group including Russia, Turkey and Switzerland – was €5.2 billion, €1.7 billion lower than in the first seven months of 2014. Accounting for this figure was a sharp fall in net exports to Russia, a key EU chemicals trading partner. Net exports declined significantly year on year, as exports to Russia fell 14.6 per cent, or €815 million, and imports rose 1.0 per cent, or €46 million. The EU chemicals trade surplus with Asia – excluding Japan and China – increased by €481 million to €4.64 billion. The EU’s net chemicals trade surplus with China contracted by €618 million.

Chemicals Business Climate Improved in Third Quarter 2015

The EU chemical industry confidence indicator (CCI) rose slightly in the third quarter of 2015 compared to the previous quarter of the same year. Both the business situation at present and business expectations improved, while the chemicals order books component remained unchanged. Employment expectations improved markedly.

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