Last Update:
March 1, 2012

Outlook for the chemical industry

We expect the following developments in the chemical industry in 2012:

  • Continued solid growth in global chemical production (+4.1%)
  • European Union: weak growth in the chemical industry (+0.8%)
  • United States: stronger growth (+2.2%) than in other industrialized countries
  • Asia (excluding Japan): growth to slow compared with 2011, but remain strong (+8.0%)
  • Japan: significant growth (+3.4%) thanks to temporary economic upturn in domestic industry
  • South America: weaker growth (+3.9%) compared with previous year

We forecast for 2012 that global chemical production (excluding pharmaceuticals) will continue to experience solid growth (+4.1%). However, following the high growth rates in the past two years, growth in most regions in 2012 will likely slow down. In the medium term, we anticipate average economic growth of 4.4% per year.

Outlook chemical production 2012
(excl. pharmaceuticals)

(Real change compared with previous year)

Trends in chemical production 2012–2014
(excl. pharmaceuticals)

(Average annual real change)

In the European Union, we expect slight growth in the chemical industry in 2012 (+0.8%). We believe, for example, that the high growth rates seen in the last two years in the consumer goods sector will weaken in 2012. In the medium term, we forecast that European chemical production will grow by 1.6% per year.

The growth rate of chemical production in the United States in 2012 will likely be higher (+2.2%) than in other industrialized countries: As a result of the availability of large volumes of unconventionally extracted natural gas, we anticipate positive impetus for the U.S. chemical sector. In the medium term as well, we expect annual growth of 2.2%.

In Asia (excluding Japan), chemical production grew considerably in 2011, driven mainly by the strong contribution from the Chinese chemical industry. As a result of the generally weakening economic trend, year-on-year we expect a lower growth rate in 2012 (+8.0%) in the region. In the medium term, we forecast annual growth of 8.1%.

We anticipate that the chemical industry in Japan in 2012 will experience a substantial temporary upturn from the growth in domestic industry as well as from the building sector due to reconstruction efforts. Therefore, we expect a considerable rise in growth (+3.4%). In the medium term, we foresee an annual growth rate of 2.2%.

In South America, growth in chemical production in 2012 (+3.9%) is likely to be weaker than in the previous year, thereby following the general growth trend in industrial production. As a supplier industry, the chemical industry in this region will benefit in particular from infrastructure investments in Brazil as well as from the increasing demand for agricultural chemicals. In the medium term, we anticipate average growth of 4.3%.

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