China’s polyethylene market sees slow growth

Economic growth


China PE May13.pngThe usual flow of China’s polyethylene (PE) production data has been interrupted since the start of the year. But the good news is that normal publication has now been resumed. Thus the chart above shows market developments between January – April, versus 2012 and 2011, including trade data from Global Trade Information Services.

PE’s position as the largest polymer means that it provides excellent insight into wider developments in the economy, as well as highlighting China’s strategic approach to imports. Year to date volumes certainly support the view that the economy is continuing to slow as the new leadership targets corruption and the housing market bubble:

• The overall market is up just 8% (red column) versus 2011 (blue). There has been a welcome recovery versus the decline seen in 2012 (green), but the data highlights once again the lack of connection between PE demand growth and reported GDP growth
• Imports are up 10% and have temporarily gained market share since 2011, with China’s own production up only 5% due to the lack of major new domestic capacity coming online. This situation is of course now starting to change, as new naphtha and coal-based plants start-up
• Strategic rather than financial concerns continue to drive China’s import sourcing decisions. Its focus is on doing business with the ME (the oil for markets strategic corridor) and SEA (the free trade agreement). Otherwise, its purchases seem increasingly restricted to its need to buy hard-to obtain grades from NAFTA/USA
• Thus ME imports are up 28% and SEA up 18%, whilst NAFTA is down 10%, NEA down 3% and the EU (from an already low volume) down 1%

It is still early days for the new leadership, but PE market developments provide some clear indications of the likely path they intend to follow.


Japan's 7% Nikkei index fall highlights risks ahead


We are now nearly at the end of May, and still there is no sign of a sustained r...

Learn more

European cracker operating rates drop below 80%


Q1 was another miserable quarter for EU olefin producers. As the chart shows, ba...

Learn more
More posts
China’s lockdown makes global debt crisis now almost certain

Beijing has a population of 21.5 million, but you wouldn’t know it from this BBC video from la...

Financial markets head for (another) train crash as coronavirus starts to impact

China’s industrial heartland of Hubei (pop 59m) and its capital Wuhan (pop 11m) have now been ...

Coronavirus disruptions make global recession almost certain

Last month, our Hong Kong-based pH Report colleague, Daniël de Blocq van Scheltinga, warned of the ...

Your A to Z Guide to the Brexit trade negotiations

A. Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty set out the rules for leaving the European Union. As with most ne...

Contingency planning is essential in 2020 as “synchronised slowdown” continues

The IMF has now confirmed that the world economy has moved into the synchronised slowdown that I for...

Boris Johnson will have to disappoint someone in 2020 as the UK finally leaves the EU

Finally, after three and a half years, the UK has reached “the end of the beginning” wit...

ACS Chemistry & the Economy webinar on Thursday

Please join me for the next ACS Chemicals & Economy webinar on Thursday, at 2pm Eastern Standard...

What’s next for Brexit and chemicals?

The UK is about to go to the polls again to try and decide the Brexit issue.  Chemicals will be one...


Market Intelligence

ICIS provides market intelligence that help businesses in the energy, petrochemical and fertilizer industries.

Learn more


Across the globe, ICIS consultants provide detailed analysis and forecasting for the petrochemical, energy and fertilizer markets.

Learn more

Specialist Services

Find out more about how our specialist consulting services, events, conferences and training courses can help your teams.

Learn more

ICIS Insight

From our news service to our thought-leadership content, ICIS experts bring you the latest news and insight, when you need it.

Learn more