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European chemicals output was stagnant in 2013, posting zero growth and thus 6.4% below the pre-crisis peak reached in 2007, the latest data released by the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic, Brussels / Belgium; www.cefic.org) shows. Despite flat growth levels, the year-end tally exceeded Cefic’s September 2013 forecast of a slight contraction of 0.5%. The outcome was largely the result of an improvement in the second half of the year, with output rising by 2% year-on-year in December 2013, Cefic said, adding that this “helped pull the sector out of a recession”. Total sales for the first 11 months of 2013 were down 3.3% year-on-year, with chemicals prices falling by 2.7% in December 2013. Over the year as a whole, Cefic said, producers’ prices declined by 1% year-on-year. As for capacity utilisation levels, output fell from 79.1% in Q3 2013 to 78.8% in last year’s final quarter
The key driver of European chemicals output were exports, with the net trade surplus of the first 11 months of 2013 reaching EUR 45.8 bn. The surplus was led by a EUR 14.4 bn positive trade balance (up EUR 500m) with non-EU countries in Europe, including Russia. The European chemical trade surplus to Asia – excluding Japan and China – reached EUR 6.7 bn in the first 11 months of last year, a year-on-year rise of EUR 2.2 bn. By comparison, the chemicals trade surplus with China dropped from EUR 1.33 bn in the period from January to November 2012 to EUR 1.27 bn in the same time span last year. Cefic figures also showed that the US managed to close the trade deficit gap to Europe by EUR 2.1 bn in the first 11 months of last year, reaching a total of EUR 6 bn.
Taking a closer look at the last month of 2013, Cefic found that petrochemicals output fell by 7.1% year-on-year. Despite the fall, polymers output actually rose by 4% over December 2012, as did consumer chemicals production (up 0.8%) and speciality chemicals output (up 1.6%).
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