The American Chemistry Council (ACC) US Chemical Production Index rose by 0.3% in November, following three consecutive monthly declines. Production increased in all seven regions of the US during the month. Compared to November 2012, chemical production in all regions increased by 1.5% year-over-year, following a revised gain of 1.7% in October. Comparing the first eleven months of 2013 to those of 2012, total chemical production rose 1.3% nationally, with six of the seven regions posting gains.
The ACC’s Chemical Activity Barometer (CAB) rose by 0.1% in December. Following an increase of 0.1% in November, the CAB remains up 2.8% over a year earlier and is at its highest point since June 2008.
The ACC issued a report in December entitled “2013 Chemical Industry Situation and Outlook: American Chemistry is Back in the Game”, saying that chemical sales in the US will reach $1 trillion by 2018 and that R&D spending will rise to $68.7 billion. The outlook for Europe is less optimistic with a Eurozone growth of 1% in 2014.
WR Grace announced that it had completed the acquisition of Dow Chemical’s polypropylene licensing and catalyst business in a $500 million cash transaction.
Nova Chemicals is moving forward with several projects in the Sarnia, Ontario, Canada area and is evaluating options for a new $1 billion polyethylene plant.
Phillips 66 will sell Phillips Specialty Products to Berkshire Hathaway for approximately $1.4 billion in stock. The company produces chemicals related to pipeline flow potential. The agreement is expected to be finalized by mid-year.
Axiall is planning a $3 billion ethane cracker in Louisiana pending approval from their board of directors.
Cargill announced that it is to built a new ethanol plant in Saxony Anhalt, Germany, with an investment of ~$82 million. The new facility will serve the beverage, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals industries.
On December 8, 2013 Sysco Corp. of Houston agreed to purchase US Foods of Rosemont, IL in a deal valued at approximately $3.5 billion.
The Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) has called for the re-authorization of the miscellaneous tariff bill, which provides tariff relief for US companies that import chemicals not available in this country. SOCMA stated that chemical import duties can add 5 – 25% to total cost.
Andrew Liveris, Chairman, President and CEO of Dow Chemical was once again named number one chemical industry power player by ICIS.
It has been reported that Exxon’s new cracker in Singapore allows the company to bypass the refining process and to process crude oil directly into petrochemicals. This new technology helps to reduce raw material costs, energy consumption, and carbon emissions. According to Exxon, it is the most feed-flexible cracker that they’ve ever built.
US chlor-alkali average operating rates rose to 85% in November 2013 from October’s 79%.
The EPA was scheduled to publish re-proposed carbon dioxide limits for new power plants on January 8, setting separate standards for coal-fired and natural gas-fired generating units. The rule would revise an April 2012 proposal, in which the EPA had intended to set a single standard for both types of plants. The new standards aren’t expected to result in significant CO2 reductions because the power generating sector is already investing in lower cost, cleaner natural gas-fired generating units.
The US Navy has announced that it is moving rapidly toward making regular purchases of biofuel for its warships and jet aircraft by 2015. The Secretary of the Navy said that this was part of a joint venture with the US Agriculture Department.
Odebrecht, Brazil’s major contractor, is considering the development of an ethane cracker and three polyethylene plants in a project called Ascent, according to Governor Tomblin of West Virginia. In addition, Braskem, also a Brazilian company, would be responsible for petrochemical related activities as well as marketing the polyethylene
Russian production of chemicals and petrochemical products increased in the January – November 2013 period according to Rosstat, the national statistical agency.
China became the world’s largest trading nation in 2013, overtaking the US. This ranking is based on annual trade in goods, and China passed the $4 trillion mark for the first time last year. Exports were reported to have risen 7.9% to $2.21 trillion and imports to have risen 7.3% to $1.95 trillion. Total trade rose 7.6% over the year to $4.16 trillion. US data for 2013 hasn’t yet been published but with trade totaling $3.15 trillion in the first eleven months of the year, it’s unlikely to beat China. Economists forecast that the Chinese economy will expand 7.5% in 2014.
On January 9 US lawmakers proposed a bill to give the White House the power to fast-track international trade agreements as 2014 looks to be a hectic year of trade negotiations. The proposed legislation would allow an up-or-down vote without amendments.
China’s consumer price index decreased at an annual rate of 1.5% in December. Producer prices remained level.
China’s monthly industrial output in excess of 10% continues to exceed the government annual target of 7.5%.
Germany’s business climate continued to grow, but slightly, in December. Munich-based Ifo, an economic research group, reported that its monthly business climate index for Germany rose to 109.5 in November from 109.3 in October. The survey represents responses from firms in construction, manufacturing, wholesaling and retailing. Their expectations regarding business developments rose to their highest level since spring 2011.
Unemployment across the seventeen European Union countries that use the euro was reported unchanged at 12.1% for November. The lowest rates among member states were Austria at 4.7%, Germany at 5.2% and Luxembourg at 5.9%. The highest rates among member states were Greece at 27.4% and Spain at 26.7%. However, during the same period sales rebounded 1.6% versus a year ago.
Inflation in the Euro zone was reported at 0.8%, down from 0.9% in November. This was less than half of the European Central Bank’s ceiling, which indicated economic weakness in parts of the region.
The head of safety for CN Rail says that the rail industry wants to phase out older model tank cars that have been implicated in several recent accidents. This problem could involve as many as 80,000 sub-standard cars in use across North America. The Association of American Railroads (AAR) and Regional Railroad Association has proposed a new safety standard that would require shippers to upgrade tank cars. The Canadian and US governments have been reluctant to deal with this huge number of cars, in part because of the cost and logistics of an overhaul.
Total carload rail volume for 2013 was down 0.5% from 2012. Intermodal volume was up 4.6% compared to the same period. Petroleum products shipments were up 29.8%.
The American Trucking Association reported that seasonally adjusted for-hire truck tonnage increased 2.7% in November, after falling 1.9% in October. Compared with November 2012, year-over-year increase was 8.1%.
Kinder Morgan Energy Partners entered into an agreement to purchase American Petroleum Tankers and State Class Tankers for $962 million in cash. This will result in Kinder Morgan adding maritime tanker service.
Shale Oil and Gas Related
The New York State Energy Planning Board long-term plan, which was supposed to have been completed in September 2012 was released on January 7, 2014 for a 60 day public comment period. It calls for expanding the use of natural gas for heating and power generation, but takes no position on the use of hydraulic fracturing. Over the past year Governor Cuomo has said that he’s waiting for his health commissioner to complete a review, with no deadline for a decision.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently said that he remains confident that the Keystone XL pipeline will eventually be built even as President Obama delays making a decision on the $5.4 billion project. Oil sands developers are planning to double output by 2025 and are counting on Keystone XL to connect their crude oil to the Gulf Coast, the world’s largest refining center. According to the American Petroleum Institute, buying oil from Canada makes sense because for every US dollar spent on Canadian products, such as oil, up to 89 cents is returned in the form of imports of US goods to Canada.
The operator of the $2.3 billion pipeline between Cushing, OK and the Gulf Coast expects to begin shipping oil on January 22.
Royal Dutch Shell has renewed its option to buy the Horsehead site in Monaca, PA as it continues to evaluate whether or not to proceed with a $2 billion ethylene plant in the area. However, demolition of a zinc oxide plant at the site is taking place.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the federal government incurred a budget deficit of $182 billion for the first three months of fiscal year 2014, $111 billion less than the shortfall reported for the same period a year ago. The federal government incurred a $680 billion deficit in fiscal year 2013. This was $409 billion less than the deficit in fiscal year 2012. The US Treasury Department reported that on January 4, 2014 the federal debt was $17.312 trillion. The national debt has increased an average of $2.67 billion per day since September 30, 2012.
An omnibus spending bill of $1.012 trillion was revealed on January 13; a House vote on it was expected on January 14 and for it to be before the Senate by the weekend. The bill covers the entire federal discretionary budget for fiscal 2014 and fills in the details of the earlier agreement between Democrats and Republicans. Passage of the bill will ensure that the government will stay open until October 1.
Personal income in November increased $30.1 billion or 0.2% according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In October, personal income decreased 0.1% or $10.8 billion.
China, the largest foreign creditor of the US, bought more Treasuries in October than any other foreign investor. This was taken as a sign that the US is still considered a global financial safe haven in spite of the recent shutdown and threat of default. China’s holdings increased by $10.7 billion to $1.305 trillion, according to Treasury Department data. The US government debt held by foreign entities continues in excess of $5.6 trillion.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis third estimate showed an increase in Gross Domestic Product of 4.1% in the third quarter of 2013, that is, from the second quarter to the third quarter. In the second quarter, real GDP increased 2.5%. First quarter data showed an increase of 1.1%. Revised fourth quarter 2012 real GDP increased 0.4%. Current-dollar GDP, the market value of the nation’s output of goods and services, increased 6.2% or $251.9 billion to a level of $16,912.9 billion. In the second quarter, current dollar GDP increased 3.1% or $125.7 billion to a level of $16,661 billion. In the first quarter current dollar GDP increased 2.8% or $115.0 billion.
A report by the National Association for Business Economics estimated that US GDP should grow by 2.8% in 2014.
The Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index increased 0.8% in November to 98.3 (2004 = 100), following a revised 0.1% increase in October, and a 1.0% increase in September.
The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index which had decreased in November rebounded in December to 78.1 from 72.0 in November.
The Institute for Supply Management’s December Manufacturing Index registered 57%, the second highest reading for the year and just 0.3% below the November reading of 57.3%. The December reading is the seventh consecutive monthly increase. The Non-Manufacturing Report for December was 53%, a decrease of 0.9% from November’s 53.9%, but indicating continued growth in the non-manufacturing sector at a slower rate.
In November, retail and food services sales adjusted for seasonal variations were $432.3 billion, an increase of 0.7% from October and 4.1% above November 2012.
Privately owned housing units authorized by building permits in November were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,007,000, which was 3.1% below the revised October rate of 1,039,000, but is 7.9% above the November 2012 rate of 933,000. Single family authorizations in November were at a rate of 634,000, which was 2.1% above the October figure of 621,000.
Sales of new single family houses in November were at a seasonally adjusted rate of 464,000. This was 2.1% below the revised October rate of 474,000 but is 16.6% higher than the November 2012 number 398,000.
The National Association of Realtors reported that total sales of existing homes declined 4.3% in November to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.9 million from an October rate of 5.12 million and were 1.2% below the November 2012 rate of 4.96 million. Prices continue to increase and were up 9.4% from November 2012. Distressed homes, foreclosures and short sales, accounted for 14% of November sales, at no change from October.
New orders for manufactured durable goods in November increased $8.2 billion or 3.5% to $241.6 billion. This increase, up three of the last four months, followed a 0.7% decrease in October.
November unfilled orders for manufactured durable goods increased $10.5 billion or 1.0% to $1058.5 billion. This number has increased for nine of the last ten months.
Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers was unchanged in November on a seasonally adjusted basis. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that over the last twelve months the all items index increased 1.2% before seasonal adjustments. Food index rose slightly, after an increase of 0.1% in October, and no change in September. The gasoline index dropped 1.6% and natural gas fell as well, offsetting increases in electricity and heating oil.
The seasonally adjusted Producer Price Index for finished goods decreased slightly 0.1% in November. Prices for finished goods fell 0.2% in October and 01% in September. On an unadjusted basis, prices for finished goods increased 0.7 % for the twelve months ended in November 2013.
Interest rate: Prime at 3.25%, unchanged since 12/16/08.
Inflation: Inflation rate for the twelve months ended in November reported at 1.2%; October was reported at 1.0%, September at 1.2%. An average rate of 2.1% was reported for 2012.
Industrial production increased 1.1% in November, after having edged up an adjusted 0.1% in October and 0.7% in September. The November gain was the largest since November 2012. Capacity utilization rate for total industry increased 0.8% to 79.0%, a rate 1.2% below its 1972 – 2012 average.
Unemployment: The December unemployment rate declined to 6.7% from the November 2013 rate of 7.0% as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of unemployed persons was reported at 10.4 million, down from the 10.9 million from a month earlier. Employers added an unexpectedly low 74,000 jobs in December and a reported 374,000 people left the work force. Most economists had projected a 200,000 jobs gain. The long-term unemployed, i.e., jobless for 27 weeks and over was reported at 3.9 million in December, down from 4.1 million. Those individuals accounted for 37.7% of the unemployed. The number of long-term unemployed has declined by 894,000 in the past twelve months. North Dakota continued to lead the nation with the lowest state unemployment rate in November of 2.6%; Rhode Island and Nevada were highest at 9.0 % with Michigan, and Illinois not far behind.
The US Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis through the Department of Commerce announced on January 7 that total November exports of $194.9 billion and imports of $229.2 billion resulted in a goods and services deficit of $34.3 billion, down from the October figure of $40.6 billion.
Crude Oil: WTI trading at ~$93/bbl, little changed from a year earlier.
Extremely cold weather in the Northeast drove up natural gas pricing. Henry Hub spot price closed on January 7 at $4.35/MMBTU, with a reported increase up to $4.54. Regional price variations were pronounced. February futures reported in the $4.20/MMBTU range. Working natural gas in storage at the beginning of January decreased and was 15.1% lower than last year at that time, and 10.1% lower than the five year average.
The U.S. Dollar trading at 104.8 Japanese yen; $Canadian 1.09; $1.37 = euro; . The British pound sterling = $1.65.
Current U.S. gold price quoted at $1247.00/ounce. The record price of $1920/ounce was recorded in September, 2011.