Global economic growth slows significantly at end of 2011
According to data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the global economy grew 4 percent in 2011, but was unable to sustain the dynamic growth of 2010. Moreover, economic growth weakened significantly in the second half of the year. The development of the global economy was driven primarily by the emerging markets, while the industrial nations lost momentum. The gross domestic product of the emerging countries rose 6.4 percent in 2011, whereas the IMF reported growth of only 1.6 percent for the industrialized world. In the wake of the euro crisis, Europe (+ 1.6 percent) is wrestling with the unresolved problems of the debt-ridden southern European states. Impetus for growth was also lacking in the US economy (+ 1.5 percent) due to a high government deficit. The emerging markets were exposed to much lower economic risks. Although experiencing inflationary tendencies the emerging economies in Asia, in particular, continue to grow at a high rate. China’s economy experienced 9.5 percent growth in 2011, according to IMF figures, while India advanced by 7.8 percent. The economies of the two other BRIC countries – Russia (+ 4.3 percent) and Brazil (+ 3.8 percent) – also posted robust expansion.
The massive revaluation of the Swiss francs against major currencies was stopped with the intervention of the Swiss National Bank, which set a floor of the value of the Swiss franc at an exchange rate of at least CHF 1.20 per Euro. On a year on year comparison however the Swiss currency has appreciated significantly compared with most local currencies that are crucial for Clariant.
Chemical industry in 2011: Positive year with weaker finish
The chemical industry as a whole and specialty chemicals in particular also exhibited positive growth trends, driven by a still positive economic environment. Global chemical production increased by about the same magnitude, proportionately, as the global economy. Impetus for growth came primarily from the EMEA (Europe, Middle East & Africa) region, North America, and Asia. Growth was based in large part on the extremely dynamic development in some areas in the first six months of the year. In the second half of the year, however, the slowdown in industrial production across all regions triggered by economic conditions manifested itself in declining demand. Europe was affected and experienced stagnating growth as of the third quarter after a definite uptrend at the beginning of the year. Momentum in the emerging Asian markets also slowed. By the end of the year, Japan’s chemical industry reported definite signs of recovery after the sharp downturn caused in the aftermath of the tsunami in March.
The price levels for both raw materials and finished products also rose significantly, but stabilized after a peak in the mid of 2011. In the second half of 2011 a significant de-stocking could be observed in several industries (Leather, Plastics, Coatings). Because of the slowdown in industrial production, which was more pronounced toward year-end, the last six months of the year were characterized by stagnation in annualized chemical production.