LONDON (ICIS)--European chemical output rose 3.1% during the first quarter of 2014 year on year, but petrochemicals production fell 7.7% in March year on year, the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) said on Wednesday.
However, the sharp fall in petrochemicals output was partially offset by a rise of 6.5% in specialty chemicals output and a 5.6% increase in basic inorganics production, according to Cefic’s Chemicals Trends Report.
Polymers, on the other hand, grew more moderately (up 1.3%) in March year on year while consumer chemicals rose by 0.3% during the same period.
Despite the increase in chemical production during the first quarter, chemical prices overall decreased 2.8% year on year. The fall in prices was sharper in March (down 3.1% year on year) mainly on the back of a 5% fall in the petrochemical prices during that month. Petrochemicals prices in the first quarter fell 4.9% year on year.
“[Despite the increase in output] several years of above-zero expansion are needed to return to the pre-crisis levels. Consumer chemicals is the only sector where current production levels are well above the pre-crisis peak level (4.9%)”, said Cefic.
The council also published on Wednesday its Industry Confidence Indicator (CCI), which in April showed a slight decline in confidence within the industry compared to March.
“The CCI monthly reading reflected companies’ lower output expectations, though overall order books and current stock levels for the month improved slightly,” said Cefic.
According to the report, the EU’s export order books and selling prices improved in April, but employment expectations fell. Capacity utilisation in the EU during the first quarter of 2014 reached 81.2%, up from 78.9% in the fourth quarter of 2013.