The US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) revealed today that real GDP increased at an annual rate of 0.5 percent in the first quarter of 2016, according to the “advance” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth quarter, real GDP increased 1.4 percent.

Incorporating the gases industry, the American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) Global Chemical Production Regional Index (Global CPRI) shows that the first quarter ended on a soft note, with the headline index essentially flat on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis during March. This follows flat activity in February, a 0.4 percent gain in January and a strong fourth quarter.

During March, chemical production rose in North America, Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, and Africa and the Middle East, while activity fell in Latin America and Asia-Pacific. The Global CPRI was up 2.6 percent year-over-year (Y/Y) on a 3MMA basis and stood at 108.5% of its average 2012 levels in March.

Related: Air Products reports growth despite EfW exit in Q2 results

During March, capacity utilization in the global business of chemistry slipped slightly to 80.1 percent. This is off from 81.0 percent last March and is below the long-term (1987-2015) average of 89.1 percent.

Mixed March results

All segments of the business of chemistry have improved from the trough of the recession with the most pronounced recovery having occurred in the cyclical segments. During March, results were mixed, with weakness in the global production of agricultural chemicals, inorganic chemicals, plastic resins, and manufactured fibers.

Considering year-over-year comparisons, chemical production increased in most categories. Growth was strongest in global plastic resins followed by organic chemicals, pharmaceuticals, other specialty chemicals, and consumer products.

More to come

Gas companies like Air Products, Praxair, Chart, and Air Liquide have begun issuing their quarterly updates, and with those and these overarching numbers, a clear picture of the gases business in the larger economic sphere should begin to take shape over the next several weeks.