Chemical Industry Europe's Long Way Out of the Dark: Chemicals Production Figures Slightly Recover

Editor: Dominik Stephan

The downward trend for Europe's chemicals market continues: Chemicals production on the continent gave in by 2.1 percent year–on–year in the first quarter of 2013. The latest Cefic Chemicals Trends Report nevertheless shows a slight recovery compared to the data of March 2013, the association stated...

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March monthly production below March 2012 level, but up slightly from February level
March monthly production below March 2012 level, but up slightly from February level
(Picture: Cefic)

Chemicals production in the EU contracted 2.1 per cent in first quarter 2013 compared with the same period in 2012, according to the latest Cefic Chemicals Trends Report. While still bad, these figures are not as devastating as the 2.8 percent year–on–year drop witnessed in March. March data also showed that production improved slightly from February. Prices for chemicals in the European Union increased on a year-on-year basis in March 2013, up 0.5 per cent during the month against the comparable month in 2012.

Chemicals Figure Improve Since March

The latest trade data show the EU chemicals trade net trade surplus has improved through the first two months of the year, reaching € 7.8 billion – a small € 0.2 billion upward bump compared with the same period of last year. While January-February 2013 sales were below the figures of first two months of 2012, they are still 3.2 percent higher than the pre-crisis, full-year peak level reached in 2008, Cefic said.

March Sales for Inorganics Disappointing

Basic inorganics was the main drag on the year-on-year fall in output for March (see also the chart), declining 6.1 per cent year-on-year during the month. The overall production was also affected by a lower output in petrochemicals, which was down 3.4 per cent. Polymers and consumer chemicals production decreased 1.6 per cent and 1.0 per cent respectively on a year-on-year basis.

Prices for Plastics Climb

The year-on-year prices for chemicals in the EU rose by 0.5 per cent in March, compared with the year-prior figure. Consumer chemicals prices edged up 1.6 per cent, while pharmaceuticals prices were down slightly by 0.1 per cent as compared with March 2012. EU chemicals producer prices recorded a 1.4 per cent increase in the first three months of 2013 compared to the first three months of last year.

Sales Figures Still Above Pre–Crisis Level

While chemicals sales for February were 2.8 per cent lower than the previous year's, for he whole year 2012, total sales were 0.1 per cent lower as compared with 2011. Despite this lean spell, the total sales value was was 3.2 per cent higher than the fullyear, pre-crisis sales levels reached in 2008, Cefic says.

EU Trade Surplus Improves Slightly Through February

February 2013 trade data indicate a €7.8 billion overall EU chemicals net trade surplus for the first two months of the year. An EU net trade surplus with non-EU Europe contributed greatly to the additional surplus generated in January-February, reaching €2.5 billion, up €0.4 billion compared with January-February 2012. A €1.2 billion surplus occurred during that time with Asia, excluding Japan and China – up €0.2 billion compared with the same two-month period the year prior.

A €1.7 billion EU net trade surplus with the NAFTA region for the same period was €0.2 billion lower, however, compared with January-February the previous year. The EU net trade surplus with China whittled down to €0.2 billion in January-February 2013 from €0.3 billion from the same period the previous year.