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Chemistry Industry Poised for 2002 Recovery

Despite the most challenging period in two decades, chemical shipments in 2001 most likely will remain at $460 billion, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) reported. In its annual survey of the industry, The Business of Chemistry in the USA: Performance and Outlook, gains were reported in consumer products, specialty chemicals, and life sciences. These gains, however, were countered by a decline in industrial chemicals. Soaring energy costs, a high dollar, overcapacity, declining demand from the manufacturing recession, and failing product prices all combined to affect the industry in 2001.

Kevin Swift, ACC's chief economist, said, “Most companies in the business of chemistry anticipate that economic conditions will recover by third-quarter 2002.”

Swift predicted that despite the high dollar, slowing growth overseas, and diminished competitiveness from the high feedstock costs of earlier in the year, exports are expected to rise 4.3% in 2001, reaching $83.3 billion, a new record. On the other hand, imports, largely from Western Europe and a number of Asian nations, rose 11.5%, and the trade surplus fell from $6.3 billion to $1.3 billion in 2001. This is down from the $20.4-billion peak reached in 1995. Despite a slowing economy, ACC predicts shipments will expand 2.8% to $473 billion in 2002. On a volume basis, a 1% gain is expected. Exports are expected to reach $87.5 billion in 2002 but will likely be outpaced by imports. As a result, the trade surplus is anticipated to turn into a slight trade deficit — the first on record since the mid-1920s.

Employment is expected to decline in both 2001 and 2002 as downsizing and outsourcing efforts continue, the survey showed. A 3.5% gain in hourly wages in 2002 is expected.

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