European chemical output edged ahead just 0.3 per cent in 2014 on a year-on-year basis, according to the latest Cefic Chemicals Trends Report. Latest monthly data show a 1.2 per cent contraction in December 2014 compared with December 2013. EU chemicals prices fell in 2014 by 1.8 per cent compared to full-year 2013. European chemicals sales clawed back to peak levels achieved in 2008. Net exports of EU chemicals reached €40.4 billion for the first eleven months of 2014, slipping somewhat from last year’s record. Chemicals confidence improved in the last three months of 2014 compared to the previous quarter. Chemicals order books have improved for the coming months, while production expectations have firmed up.
Cefic Director General Hubert Mandery said: “Flat growth in 2014 was partly due to sagging exports. Any help from the recent dips in lower oil prices have not solved a greater long- term problem of ensuring reliable energy supplies at competitive prices.”
Petrochemicals drag overall output growth
Anaemic growth during the full year 2014 was hampered by shrinking petrochemicals output, down 4.0 per cent during the year 2014 compared to 2013. The decline was partially offset by 2.8 per cent growth in specialty chemicals and a 2.1 per cent uptick in consumer chemicals. Polymers output declined by 0.5 per cent year-on-year, and basic inorganics output dropped by 1.2 per cent. Chemicals production in 2014 grew by 0.3 per cent compared to 2013. It was also 5.3% below the peak level registered before the crisis which began in 2007.
Year-on-year sales down by 0.8 percent in the first eleven months
Total EU chemical sales grew by 0.8 per cent during the first eleven months of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013. Sales data for the same period are 0.3 per cent higher than the pre-crisis full-year peak reached in 2008.
Prices fall 1.8 per cent in 2014
EU chemical producer prices slid 1.8 per cent during the year 2014 compared to the year prior. Latest monthly data show for December a 3.6 per cent drop compared to December 2013. Petrochemicals producer prices had the deepest dip, down 6.6 per cent in December 2014 compared to December 2013. Plastics dropped 1.8 per cent during the same period.
Net trade surplus down by €4.2 billion in the first eleven months
The EU had a €40.4 billion net trade surplus in chemicals during the first eleven months of 2014. The net positive trade balance with non-EU countries – a group including Russia, Turkey and Switzerland – was €11.2 billion, €2.6 billion lower than the same period in 2013. Underlying this figure was a fall in net exports with Russia, which plunged by 38.7 per cent year on year, as exports to Russia fell by 3.9 per cent, or €366 million, and imports jumped by 10.2 per cent, or €684 million. The EU chemicals trade surplus with Asia – excluding Japan and China – grew by €374 million. The EU’s net chemicals trade surplus with China contracted from €1.2 billion to €507 million. The United States further narrowed its chemicals trade deficit with the European Union by €985 million to €4.8 billion during the eleven-month period.
Confidence improves in fourth quarter 2014
The EU chemical industry confidence indicator (CCI) rose in the fourth quarter of 2014 compared to the previous quarter of the same year. The CCI chemicals order books component improved, while production expectations for the months ahead brightened slightly. Both components contributed largely to the confidence boost in fourth quarter 2014. Stock levels decreased slightly during the same period.
Capacity utilisation declines slightly
EU chemicals sector capacity utilisation reached a robust 81.1 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2014, down from 81.2 per cent in Q3-2014. Capacity utilisation remains 3.9 percentage points below the post-crisis peak recorded in the first quarter of 2011, and only 0.4 percentage points below the long-term average from 1995 to 2013.