Global chemical production seems to be "slowing", according to latest data from the American Chemistry Council (ACC). They note that total chemical output, including pharmaceuticals, rose just 0.7% between July and August, against a 9.4% rise versus August 2009.
The good news is that the ACC believe "at the headline level, the previous peak has been reached, turning global recovery into expansion." But they warn that output performance is uneven - "some nations and regions lag, and have yet to reach the prior peak." The blog will look at this in more detail next weekend.
The ACC has also introduced the above new chart, showing capacity utilisation in the global industry (again including pharma), since 1989. This shows the clear improvement since the bottom of the crisis, with utilisation rates at 86.9% in August versus 80.9% in August 2009.
Utilisation is well down, however, versus the 2007 peak of 93.5%. It is also down versus the 1995-2007 average of 90.1%. Demand grew by 80% over this period, from 56.7 on the ACC's Index to 101.8. But since 2007, demand has only risen 8%, whilst capacity is up 26%.
The risk for pricing and margins is that demand growth now disappears, as the stimulus programmes end, whilst more Asian and Middle Eastern capacity continues to come online. This would inevitably lead to a new decline in the utilisation rate.