For the fourth consecutive month, European chemicals output increased in January 2014, according to the Cefic Chemicals Trends Report released on April 23, 2014. Output during January 2014 was up 3% per cent year-on-year, but EU chemicals prices were down 2.8% over the same period. Meanwhile industry sales during full-year 2013 were down 3.3% on 2012.
The EU chemicals sector continued to show a strong trade surplus, but growth of the surplus has slowed markedly in recent years, swelling only Euro 1.0 billion to Euro 48.8 billion in 2013. Confidence levels for the sector remained broadly unchanged in March 2014 compared to February 2014. But trends in capacity utilisation and employment were negative. Capacity utilisation eased, to 78.8% in the fourth quarter, from 79.1% in the third quarter, while employment in the EU chemical industry fell 1% during 2013.
Hubert Mandery, Director, Cefic, said, “Growth is recovering only slowly: we have yet to return to the level of output achieved seven years ago, before the crisis. The data highlight the urgent need to bring about the European industrial renaissance proposed by European policymakers.”
Petrochemicals output continued to contract in January 2014, down by 4.2% compared with January 2013. This steep drop was partially offset by a 7.2% surge in output of polymers and a 6% expansion in basic inorganics. Specialty chemicals grew by 4.9% month-on-month while consumer chemicals output rose 3.3%. Petrochemicals monthly output has continued to perform below trend growth rates since September 2011.
The EU chemical industry confidence indicator (CCI) generated by Cefic remained flat in March. The CCI monthly reading reflected companies’ lower output expectations, though overall order books for the coming months and current stock levels improved slightly. This is in line with the EU manufacturing confidence indicator, showing a marginal decrease of 0.3 points in March 2014 compared to February 2014. During the fourth quarter of 2014 capacity utilisation in the EU chemical industry decreased slightly, to 78.8%. It remains 6.6% below the post-crisis peak recorded in the first quarter of 2011.