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Business conditions

General economic situation

The risks in the international financial sector discussed in the previous quarter’s report continue to apply, despite the announcements by the European Central Bank and the expanded multilateral protection mechanisms in the eurozone. The resulting uncertainty and the austerity measures introduced in the affected economies continued to slow the pace of global growth in the third quarter of 2012. The economy in Western Europe, particularly, was weak and shrank by 0.5%. Growth in the United States was on the level of the previous quarter at 1.5%. The 7.4% growth rate in China also matched the second quarter.

Chemical industry

The global chemical industry continued to grow in the third quarter of 2012, albeit somewhat more slowly than in the preceding quarter. Production in Germany was at the previous quarter’s level. Against the same period a year ago, however, output was down by 2.5%. The picture for the European Union as a whole was similar, with production in the chemical industry down by 2% from the prior-year level. By contrast, the North American chemical industry raised production by 2%.

Evolution of major user industries

Growth in global automobile production weakened considerably in the reporting period, with regional variations persisting. North America and China remained the main drivers of growth, with gains of 10% and 9%, respectively, from the prior-year period. Production in Europe fell by 11% because of the economic situation in some countries. Third-quarter production in Latin America decreased by 4%. The tire industry was also affected by the negative market development. Global production of OEM truck tires declined in line with the reduced demand for new vehicles. The replacement tire business was also sluggish, with only Latin America showing signs of a positive trend. Europe’s car tire market experienced softer demand in both the OEM and replacement tire segments compared to the same period a year ago. By contrast to the preceding quarter, demand for replacement tires in North America dropped by 4%, while it grew by a similar percentage in Latin America.

Construction demand in Europe varied, remaining low especially in the crisis countries of Western Europe but growing in certain parts of Eastern Europe, for example. Demand in the U.S. construction market also continued to develop positively.

The demand for agrochemicals remained at a gratifying level.