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Business conditions

General economic situation

The global economic environment in the first quarter was marked by very weak development. Europe continued to suffer from the sovereign debt crisis, which worsened in some eurozone countries. Economic growth in the United States was held back by the ongoing debate about its sovereign debt level and turned out to be slower than expected. Apart from the economic weakness in the established industrialized countries, the pace of growth was below that of previous years in China, too.

The raw material markets showed comparatively low volatility in the first quarter. Although price trends were mixed, there were no major fluctuations.

Chemical industry

The chemical industry as a whole saw a slight increase in production volumes. Development varied widely from one region to another. Strong growth in China and the U.S. contrasted with a tangible decline in output in Europe.

Evolution of major user industries

Global growth in automobile production was weak in the first quarter. Development was distinctly negative in the European auto industry at minus 12%, while the sector virtually stagnated in the U.S. at minus 0.3%. Only China posted a very positive trend with 15% growth.

Global demand for replacement tires, both for cars and for commercial vehicles, was very low in the first quarter. The decline in Europe mainly affected car tires, with production volumes down 12% year on year. The commercial vehicle tire market stagnated in Europe, but shrank by 8% in the U.S.

Europe’s construction sector receded by 3%. The U.S. construction industry, by contrast, recorded growth of 8% in the first quarter, after a prolonged period of weakness.

The demand for agrochemicals remained solid in the first quarter, with production volumes rising accordingly.