European chemical output edged up just 0.7 per cent during the first ten months of 2014 on a year-on-year basis, according to the latest Cefic Chemicals Trends Report. Latest monthly data show contraction in October, down 1.2 per cent compared to October 2013. EU chemicals prices were lower in October, whilst sales during the first nine months of the year were unchanged. By end-September, European chemicals sales were only 0.7 per cent below the peak achieved six years ago, in 2008. Net exports of EU chemicals reached €33.1 billion for the first nine months of 2014, slipping somewhat from last year’s record. Employment rose for the fourth consecutive quarter since Q4-2013. Chemical industry confidence worsened slightly in November 2014 compared to October of the same year.
Cefic Director General Hubert Mandery said: “Monthly data show that we are not out of the woods yet. EU policymakers must pursue a growth-focused agenda that addresses issues such as energy and innovation.”
Petrochemicals drag overall output growth
Anaemic growth during the first ten months of 2014 was hampered by shrinking petrochemicals output, down 3.5 per cent during the first ten months of 2014 compared to the same period the year prior. The decline was partially offset by 3.0 per cent growth in specialty chemicals and a 1.9 per cent uptick in consumer chemicals. Polymers grew by 0.4 per cent year-on-year, whilst basic inorganics output dropped by 0.2 per cent. Chemicals production in the first ten months of 2014 was 5.2% below the peak level registered before the crisis which began in 2007.
January-September 2014 sales remain flat
Total EU chemical sales during the first nine months of 2014 remained nearly unchanged compared with the same period last year, just 0.7 per cent higher than the pre-crisis full-year peak reached in 2008. September sales fell by 0.7 per cent compared to September 2013.
Year-on-year prices fall 1.6 per cent in the first ten months of 2014
EU chemical producer prices slid 1.6 per cent during the first ten months of 2014 compared to the same period the year before. Overall chemical prices dropped 1.0 per cent in the year to end-October.
Net trade surplus down by €3.4 billion in the first nine months
The EU had a €33.1 billion net trade surplus in chemicals during the first nine months of 2014. It was led by a €8.9 billion positive trade balance with non-EU countries in Europe, a group including Russia, Turkey and Switzerland – €2.4 billion lower than the same period of 2013. Underlying this figure is a fall in net exports with Russia, which plunged by 40 per cent, as exports to Russia fell by 4.4 per cent, or €335 billion, and imports jumped by 11.6 per cent, or €619 billion. The EU chemicals trade surplus with Asia – excluding Japan and China – grew by €440 million. The EU’s net chemicals trade surplus with China contracted slightly to €383 million. The United States further narrowed its chemicals trade deficit with the European Union by €584 million to €4.3 billion during the nine-month period.
Confidence declined slightly in November 2014
The EU chemical industry confidence indicator (CCI) dropped in November 2014 after a strong reading in October. Chemicals order books component of the CCI improved slightly in November, while production expectations for the months ahead deteriorated significantly, contributing largely to an erosion of confidence in November. Stock levels increased slightly during the month.
Employment rose for the fourth consecutive quarter
EU chemical industry employment rose slightly during the third quarter 2014 to 1.17 million, the fourth consecutive quarter of sector job growth. Taken together with the last three quarters, the latest three month uptick – and the net gain of 23,000 jobs created since third quarter 2013 – appears to confirm a break from the crisis-induced job losses that began in 2009. Country data show employment levels up in Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom since end of 2013. Germany and Poland are now above the pre-crisis employment level (Q1-2008). Data show sector employment levelling off since first quarter 2010, whilst payroll levels in the third quarter 2014 are 9.1 per cent below the peak level reached in third quarter 2007.