Business conditions

General economic situation The global economy grew by 2.5% in the first quarter of 2014. Despite the uncertainty caused by the crisis in Ukraine, a recovery in the established economies was apparent. Europe emerged from recession, posting first-quarter growth. The United States also saw an increase in economic output, although the extremely cold winter had a dampening effect. Growth slackened in the emerging economies. The Chinese economy grew more slowly than in the previous year, hampered by the ongoing debate about the financial sector. The Indian economy also showed relatively weak development.

Chemical industry Chemical industry production expanded by 4.9% in the first three months of 2014. China continued to register very strong growth. Production volumes increased slightly in the United States, while development in Brazil was weak. Europe posted a distinct recovery.

Evolution of major user industries Automotive production showed a slight increase of 2.9% in the first quarter of 2014. Europe finally registered growth again, with positive development even in some countries where the market for new vehicles had been weak of late. The pace of growth leveled off in the United States following a recovery phase, while China saw a slight decline in growth.

Demand for tires, especially replacement tires, increased worldwide in the first quarter of 2014. The demand for original equipment tires mirrored the development of vehicle production. Only Brazil showed a drop in tire demand for cars and light commercial vehicles. Demand for tires continued to develop briskly in China. Positive development was also registered in Europe and North America.

Growth in the U.S. construction industry was weaker than anticipated for weather-related reasons. The European construction sector showed signs of a recovery, while growth weakened slightly in China.

Production of agrochemicals increased in the United States and Europe, and also posted a small increase in China.