US chemical exports to surge 9.7% in 2011 – economist

02 December 2010 21:28  [Source: ICIS news]

NEW YORK (ICIS news)--US chemical exports are expected to rise 9.7% in 2011 to $186.4bn (€141.7bn), driving a level of chemical trade surplus not seen since 2000, the chief economist of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) said on Thursday.

“Favourable dollar exchange rates, growth in emerging markets and abundant shale gas will drive US chemical exports,” said ACC chief economist Kevin Swift at a media event in New York.

“Shale gas is very much a game changer for the US chemical industry and will be a major factor helping exports,” he added.

The abundant supply of shale gas in the US is expected to keep natural gas prices in the range of $3.50-$4.00/MMBtu, making US petrochemical and polymer producers “very competitive with the rest of the world”, Swift said.

Because of the favourable oil-to-gas price ratio, which has recently been above 22:1, US thermoplastic exports rose 15% in 2010, Swift said.

He noted there has historically been a close correlation between the oil-to-gas ratio and the level of US thermoplastic exports.

“US thermoplastic exports should increase further in 2011, but any boost in domestic demand could make a dent in exports as producers are already operating at around 95% capacity utilisation,” Swift said.

The ACC projects the overall rise in exports to result in a chemical trade surplus of $7.2bn in 2011 – up from an expected $3.7bn in 2010, which would be the first surplus since the 2000 figure of $5.8bn.

Imports are expected to rise as well – by 7.8% to $179.2bn in 2011, according to the ACC.

Excluding pharmaceuticals, the US trade balance improves significantly to a projected $50.0bn in 2011 – up an estimated 13.6% for 2010.

($1 = €0.76)

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By: Joseph Chang
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