European Union (EU) chemicals production recorded a 1.9% decrease in the first four months of 2012 compared with the same period in 2011, according to the latest Cefic Chemicals Trends Report. Monthly data for April 2012 showed a 1.9% decline compared with the previous April. April 2012 data show that the EU chemicals production level remains 5.2% below the peak in 2007.
Prices for chemicals in the EU continued to climb on a year-on-year basis in April, up 3.2% during the month against the comparable month in 2011. The price increase was led yet again by the overall price increase in basic inorganics. The latest data show the EU chemicals net trade surplus improved through the first quarter of 2012 by 2.4 billion, compared with the same period last year, reaching 12.5 billion. According to the latest EU Commission survey from May 30, 2012, confidence in the EU chemicals industry declined in May, based mainly on a strong deterioration in managers expectations for the months ahead.
Consumer chemicals was the only subsector to avoid a drop in the April EU chemicals production index, up 1.6% in April 2012 compared with April 2011. Specialty chemicals and basic inorganics production decreased in April by 4.2% and 3.8%, respectively, on a year-on-year basis. Polymers production declined in April 2012 by 2.7% against the comparable period the year prior. Petrochemicals experienced no change in the same period.
Monthly data for April 2012 showed a 1.9% decline for the EU chemicals industry compared, with April of the previous year. The EU trade surplus improved by 2.4 billion through the first quarter of 2012, and March 2012 trade data indicated a 12.5 billion overall EU chemicals net trade surplus. An EU net trade surplus with the NAFTA region contributed significantly to the additional surplus generated from January to March, reaching 3.3 billion, up 1.3 billion compared with the period from January to March 2011. The EU net trade surplus with the rest of Europe was 3.4 billion in the first quarter of 2012, up 0.5 billion compared with the first quarter of 2011. A 1.5 billion surplus occurred with Asia, excluding Japan, and China, which fell 0.5 billion when compared with the first quarter of 2011.
EU chemicals sales for March 2012 were 1.4% lower compared with March 2011. The overall sales level continues to surpass the pre-crisis peak reached at the beginning of 2008. Compared to full-year sales levels in 2008, the total value of sales through the first three months of 2012 was 6.1% higher.
As previously mentioned, the latest EU Commission report revealed confidence in the EU chemicals industry deteriorating markedly (5.4) in May 2012, based mainly on a strong deterioration in managers expectations for the months ahead (8.5). Moreover, managers assessment of their companies current level of order books deteriorated sharply (4.2). Also, the assessment of the adequacy of the current level of stocks of finished products worsened. Managers assessments of their companies past production and current level of export order books also declined. Employment plans were further revised down. At the same time, selling price expectations decreased modestly. HP