Trends in Key Customer Industries

  • Growth in global industrial production lower than in 2017
  • Mixed trends in key customer sectors

Global industrial production grew by 3.2% in 2018, roughly in line with our expectations at the beginning of 2018 but down from the previous year (2017: +3.4%). Growth slowed in both the advanced economies (2018: +2.1%; 2017: +2.4%) and the emerging markets (2018: +4.2%; 2017: +4.4%).

The downturn was most pronounced in the E.U. (2018: +1.4%; 2017: +3.1%) and in Japan (2018: +0.9%; 2017: +2.7%). In South America, too, industrial production again declined slightly (2018: –0.3%; 2017: –0.8%). In the emerging markets of Asia, growth in industrial production was roughly on a level with the previous year, at 5.5% (2017: +5.6%). By contrast, growth in North America accelerated again markedly (2018: +3.1%; 2017: +1.8%).

The chemical industry’s key customer sectors saw very mixed trends: Global automotive production contracted by 0.8% in 2018, a much weaker performance than in the previous year (+2.3%). Production fell by 1.3% in the E.U. Difficulties in the introduction of the new WLTP emission standard contributed significantly here. Automotive production declined slightly in North America. In China and South Korea, it decreased by 3.8% and 2%, respectively, and was largely flat in Japan (–0.2%). Production growth in the remaining emerging markets of Asia was slightly stronger than in 2017. India was a particularly large contributor here, with growth of 6.6%. In South America and Russia, automotive production rose significantly from a low baseline, but not as strongly as in the previous year. At 3.1%, growth in the construction industry was at the prior-year level (+3.1%). The E.U. saw much slower growth in construction activity after the exceptionally strong prior year. Moderating effects came from residential and commercial construction, while the infrastructure segment saw stronger year-on-year growth. Growth in the U.S. construction industry remained modest. Only investment in infrastructure saw significant gains here. In Asia, by contrast, growth in the construction industry remained at a comparatively high level. Agricultural production expanded at a much slower pace in 2018 compared with the previous year (2018: +1.9%; 2017: 3.3%), as cereal and soybean yields in Europe, North and South America as well as in South Africa were negatively impacted by the unusually long dry period. Agricultural output was flat overall in western Europe and fell significantly in eastern Europe. Substantial losses were also recorded in North America. Alongside weather-related influences, the trade conflict with China also played a key role here, which negatively impacted U.S. soybean exports to China. There was a noticeable decline in production in South America as a whole, primarily as a result of heavy production losses in Argentina. By contrast, the strong upward trend in agricultural production continued in Asia, although here too, growth was lower than in the previous year.

Growth in key customer industries

Real change compared with previous year

Growth in key customer industries (Real change compared with previous year) (bar chart)