The blog has been out and about in recent days, visiting some of the major European chemical companies. Most continue to see strong order books. In normal circumstances, this would lead to considerable confidence about the outlook for the rest of the year.
However, there are increasing fears, as Nigel Davis has noted in ICIS Insight, that underlying growth may already be slowing. One tangible example of this slowdown is the chart above, showing that EU auto sales fell a further 9.3% in May.
Last year, of course, Europe was the world’s largest auto market, with sales of 14.4m. And volume continued to be positive versus 2009 until March, helping to boost chemical and polymer demand. But few expect H2 to be as strong.
ACEA (the European auto manufacturers association) note that the sales decline reflects both “the end to government support schemes and the further challenging economic situation“. In turn, this reinforces the blog’s New Year worries that Restocking is not the same as Recovery.