U.S. chemicals and plastics have overcome weak domestic sales in 2010 thanks to emerging market demand and low natural gas prices. Growth in emerging markets will be "a defining feature of economic developments during the next 10 years," according to the year-end economic outlook for the global chemical industry from the American Chemistry Council (ACC). Those emerging markets are importing chemicals and plastics from the U.S. at a time when only the Middle East offers a better cost position to the Gulf Coast.
The $3.43 trillion global chemistry business grew 8.8% in 2010, compared to a 3.3% decline in 2009, riding a "V"-shaped recovery since the March 2009 trough. Production volumes exceeded their previous peak in the fourth quarter of 2009, the ACC noted, as "the recovery evolved into an expansion."...