According to the new Chemicals Trends Report released by the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic), total production of chemicals in the European Union dropped 1.5 percent in 2012, which is a slight improvement from the previous prediction of 2 percent, made in December 2012. However, the total output still remains 6.2 percent lower than the record registered in 2007, Cefic noted.

The upward revision from the December assessment was due to the fact that the last month of 2012 actually saw strong performance of the industry, which grew 1.2 percent year-on-year, marking a third consecutive month of growth compared to the same period 12 months ago, the report stated.

Despite that, the chemicals industry confidence indicator (CCI) still remained low in January. Cefic announced that according to the January business and consumer survey report by the European Commission, the CCI underlying data points to a deterioration in assessment of order levels within the EU.

Between January and November 2012, the EU recorded a net trade surplus of EUR45.9 billion ($59.5 billion), which was EUR9.4 billion ($12.2 billion) up on 2011. During the same period, EU chemicals sales climbed 4.7 percent compared to the full-year peak level reached in 2008, before the crisis, but sales were still 1 percent below the comparable period in 2011.

The substantial increase in overall EU net trade surplus between January and November 2012 can be attributed mostly to sales in the North American Free Trade Agreement region, which reached EUR10.7 billion ($13.8 billion), 27 percent up on the same 11-month period in 2011. The EU net trade surplus with non-EU European countries like Turkey and Russia reached EUR14.4 billion ($18.6 billion) during January-November 2012, up EUR2.9 billion ($3.75 billion) from the same period in 2011. Meanwhile, a slight drop in the trade surplus with Asia was registered, falling EUR0.4 billion ($0.52 billion) to EUR4.6 billion ($5.95 billion), excluding Japan and China.

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EU chemical prices in December increased by 3 percent compared with the same period in the previous year. Overall price levels for chemicals for the whole year went up by 2.7 percent compared with 2011. Similarly, prices for petrochemicals and consumer chemicals increased by 1.4 and 1.3 percent respectively on an annual basis in 2012. The highest year-on-year price increase in 2012 was registered for basic inorganics, which rose 3.2 percent.

The Cefic Chemicals Trends report offers a detailed picture of the chemical industry performance in the 27 countries in the European Union and is based on available data released by Eurostat. Issued monthly, the summary report presents Eurostat data in four areas — chemicals production, trade, prices and total sales.