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Business conditions

General economic situation

Against the backdrop of the European sovereign debt crisis and the risks in the international financial sector, global economic growth slowed in the second quarter of 2012. Europe’s economic development suffered in particular from the further escalation of the euro debt crisis. Growth in the U.S. economy slowed against the first quarter to 1.4%. China’s growth was also below the preceding quarter at 7.6%.

Chemical industry

The global chemical industry continued to grow in the second quarter of 2012. The positive trend stabilized in Germany, with production rising compared with the first quarter. Against the same period a year ago, however, production was down by 3%. The picture for the European Union as a whole was similar, with production 2% below the prior-year period. By contrast, the North American chemical industry raised production by 2%.

Evolution of major user industries

World automobile production expanded considerably in the reporting period. North America and Asia-Pacific were the main drivers of growth, with gains of 23% and 21%, respectively, from same period of 2011. Production in Europe fell by 9% because of the economic situation in some countries. Second-quarter production in South America decreased by 4%. The tire industry presented a mixed picture. European tire production for trucks was down 20% against the previous year due to weaker demand for replacement tires. A comparable trend in North America was offset by brisk demand for original equipment tires. Europe’s car tire market experienced softer-than-expected demand in both the original equipment and replacement segments, while demand for original equipment tires in North America was augmented by the growth in car production.

Demand for construction waned further in Europe, especially in the crisis countries. Construction output in the United States rose a modest 1%. Developments in the market for agrochemicals were positive on the whole. However, the drought in the United States led to lower-than-expected demand for agrochemicals.