Sector News

EU chemical growth still positive, despite deteriorating world economic climate

September 10, 2018
Energy & Chemical Value Chain

Production of chemicals in the European Union grew by 0.9% in the period from January to May this year, compared with the corresponding period in 2017, according to the latest Chemical Trends Report from Cefic.

Output in specialty sectors such as cosmetics, paints and coatings, and man-made fibers rose by nearly 5% year over year (YOY), Cefic says, although specialty chemicals as a whole posted growth of only 1.2% YOY. In contrast, output of basic inorganics shrank by 6.3% YOY.

Producer prices rose by 2.3% YOY in the period January to May, with prices of basic inorganics, dyes and pigments climbing by more than 4.9% YOY.

EU chemical exports were worth €67.7 billion ($78.2 billion) through May this year, compared with €66 billion in the year-ago period, an increase of 2.6% YOY. Exports of chemicals from the European Union to the United States, its biggest market, jumped by 10.4% YOY in the period January to May 2018, to reach a value of €13.8 billion. Nearly 45% of the exports were petrochemicals, according to Cefic. The United States was the destination of 20.4% of EU chemical exports, followed by the rest of Europe (but excluding Russia), at 19.2%. EU chemical exports to China, Japan, the Middle East, and South Korea fell during the reporting period.

Imports of chemicals into the European Union rose by 4.1% in the period January–May 2018, to reach a value of €48.8 billion. EU imports of chemicals from the United States, the major source of EU chemical imports, fell by 6.7% YOY to €9.8 billion. More than one third (35%) of these imports were specialties, Cefic says. The United States accounted for 20.5% of EU chemical imports, followed by the rest of Europe, excluding Russia, at 17%. Chemical imports rose in all sectors during the period, with the exception of basic inorganics and consumer chemicals.

The European Union’s net trade surplus in chemicals during the first five months of 2018 was €19.9 billion. The largest chemical trade surplus for the European Union is with the rest of Europe and the United States. The region has a trade deficit in chemicals with China, India, Japan, and South Korea.

Capacity utilization in the EU chemical industry was 83.5% in the second quarter of this year, compared with 82.9% in the previous quarter, but down by 3.3% YOY. Chemical capacity utilization is 3.2% above the long-term average during 2005–17, according to Cefic.

The economic climate deteriorated in nearly all regions, according to the Ifo World Economic Survey (WES, third-quarter 2018). Economic expectations also cooled in the United States, Cefic says. Developments in world trade have been dominated by the current conflict over tariffs, with the majority of experts predicting lower exports in the months ahead, particularly for the United States and China, according to Cefic. Forecast global investment activity levels fell significantly. Private consumption is also expected to stagnate, according to the experts surveyed. The world economy has slowed to a crawl, according to Ifo.

By Michael Ravenscroft

Source: Chemical Week

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