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Business conditions

General economic situation

The global economy was again characterized by slow momentum in the second quarter of 2013. The debt crisis continued to hurt demand in key areas of Western and Southern Europe, where some economies remained in recession. By contrast, growth in the United States was slightly more robust than had been anticipated following that country’s budget cuts. In Brazil, impetus was slightly positive compared to a weak prior-year period. The situation in China was affected by uncertainty in the banking sector due to the revised monetary policy objectives of China’s central bank.

For the most part, the prices of individual raw materials trended slightly lower.

Chemical industry

Given the prevailing global conditions, the international chemical industry continued to expand in the second quarter of 2013, achieving growth of 3%. Significant impetus came from China and the U.S., with increases of 7% and 4%, respectively. By contrast, the tangible decline in European output seen in the first quarter persisted, with production down by around 3%.

Evolution of major user industries

Global automobile production grew by about 4% in the second quarter and was therefore more robust than in the first quarter. However, development varied from one region to another. China and Brazil posted high growth rates, while production in Japan and Western Europe dropped sharply. In the U.S., the number of vehicles manufactured rose significantly.

While tire sales overall showed a slight recovery, particularly in Brazil and China, demand for replacement tires remained below expectations for the quarter.

Weighed down by the investment-hampering debt levels of private households and the public sector, Europe’s construction sector again receded by 5%. By contrast, the U.S. construction industry expanded considerably, driven by demand for new housing. Construction business was also up noticeably in China.

The demand for agrochemicals remained solid in the second quarter, which had a positive impact on production levels and resulted in growth of 2%.