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European chemical output stagnant in 2014

European chemical output stagnant in 2014
European chemical output grew just 0.2 per cent in 2014, according to the latest Cefic Chemicals Trends Report, while sales fell 1.1 per cent, year-on-year. Though net exports of EU chemicals reached €44.1 billion for the full year 2014, they were significantly below the record €48.2 billion surplus achieved in 2013.

Latest monthly data show the worrying performance continued in January 2015. Output contracted 0.3 per cent compared with January 2014, while EU chemicals prices plunged 6.0 per cent. Chemicals confidence fell in the first quarter of 2015 compared to the last quarter of 2014. Meantime chemicals order books and production expectations for the coming months have worsened.

Cefic Director General Hubert Mandery said: "The lack of growth in 2014 was partly due to falling exports. Though the price of oil has fallen here in Europe, lowering producer costs, long-term problems persist, especially the challenge of securing affordable energy supplies."

In January 2015 petrochemicals output continued to slide, down a significant 7.6 per cent compared with January 2014. The drop was partially offset by 4.2 per cent growth in output of specialty chemicals. Basic inorganics output contracted by 1.2 per cent. Polymers and consumer chemicals output declined 0.6 per cent and 0.2 per cent respectively in January 2015 compared to January 2014. Overall, EU chemicals output declined by 0.3 per cent in January 2015 year on year.

Latest monthly data show EU chemical producer prices fell 6.0 per cent compared to January 2014. Full-year 2014 prices slid 1.8 per cent compared to 2013.

Total EU chemical sales dropped 1.1 per cent in 2014 compared to 2013. Sales during 2014 were close to the pre-crisis full-year peak reached in 2008.

The EU net trade surplus narrowed to €44.1 billion in 2014, down from €48.2 billion in 2013. The net positive trade balance in 2014 with non-EU countries – a group including Russia, Turkey and Switzerland – was €11.7 billion, €3.1 billion lower than in 2013. Underlying this figure was a sharp fall in net exports to Russia, an important EU chemicals trading partner. Net exports plunged by 51 per cent year on year, as exports to Russia fell 4.0 per cent, or €403 million, and imports jumped by 12.5 per cent, or €931 million. Meanwhile the EU chemicals trade surplus with Asia – excluding Japan and China – widened by €544 million. But the EU's net chemicals trade surplus with China contracted from €1.3 billion to €671 million. And the United States further narrowed its chemicals trade deficit with the European Union by €889 million to €5.4 billion during full-year 2014.

The EU chemical industry confidence indicator (CCI) fell in the first quarter of 2015 compared to the fourth quarter of 2014. The index measures of order books and production expectations both deteriorated. These falls largely underlie the confidence decline in first quarter 2015. Stock levels remained unchanged during the same period.