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Cover Story

January 11, 2010
Volume 88, Number 2
pp. 11 - 19

World Chemical Outlook

in the red: Economists say demand for autos and other big-ticket items will remain sluggish this year. iStock
In The Red Economists say demand for autos and other big-ticket items will remain sluggish this year.
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Businesspeople are optimists by nature, and that trait comes through in their predictions for the chemical enterprise’s year ahead. Beaten and bruised by two years of the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression, they still expect better times in 2010.

Even economists, practitioners of the dismal science, have positive thoughts about the new year. The American Chemistry Council forecasts that U.S. chemical output will increase by 3.0% this year. The trade group’s European counterpart, the European Chemical Industry Council, is more optimistic, predicting a 4.7% rise in output for that region’s industry. Of course, these modest gains won’t offset the losses of 2009.

Regardless of the region, some chemical markets will be more robust than others. For example, after collapsing in 2009, sales of electronic materials will jump by 18% in 2010, predicts Semiconductor Equipment & Materials International, a trade association. And Dow Chemical sees the photovoltaic market expanding by 35% this year and for several years thereafter.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the outlook for coatings and other construction materials is positively dour: Growth predictions from industry executives range from 0 to 4% this year. Falling in the middle, U.S. chlorine demand could rise 10%, Occidental Chemical expects, thanks to a robust export market for U.S.-made polyvinyl chloride.

The fate of certain markets this year depends on more than just the economy. For example, any recovery in demand for petrochemicals around the world may be swamped by a flood of long-dreaded new production capacity in the Middle East.

Success for pharmaceutical companies in 2010 will require circumventing the approaching patent expiration “cliff” with great new products or, barring that, big-ticket acquisitions. Likewise, manufacturers of pharmaceutical fine chemicals also need great new products from their drug industry customers or, barring that, more outsourcing of existing products.

Regular readers of this annual C&EN feature will notice that it has been revamped considerably for 2010. Gone are the five long geographic reviews of years past. In their place are 16 brief snapshots of markets and regions. Taken together, they offer a comprehensive view of what’s in store for the chemical industry this year.

World Chemical Outlook was compiled by Assistant Managing Editor Michael McCoy, Senior Correspondent Marc S. Reisch, and Senior Editors Lisa Jarvis, Rick Mullin, and Alexander H. Tullo in New Jersey; Senior Editor Melody Voith in Washington, D.C.; Senior Correspondent Jean-Fran├žois Tremblay in Hong Kong; and Senior Correspondent Ann M. Thayer in Houston.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2011 American Chemical Society
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