Positive outlook from the Chemical Business Association

Order books, current sales, and sales margins have all turned positive since the last CBA Trends Survey in November 2017 – but there is little momentum behind the outlook for sales during the next three months and sales margins continue to be under pressure.

The CBA’s latest on-line Trends Survey was conducted during the two weeks, 26 February – 12 March 2018, and is based on responses from 51 member companies.

Current order books and sales seem to be gathering some momentum, but the positive balance of responses is still only half the level reported in June 2017. Though still representing a positive trend, member companies are less optimistic in respect of sales over the next three months. Current and future sales margins, the most volatile aspect of these surveys, remain under pressure. The trends for industry employment and training levels are firmly positive.


CBA’s Supply Chain Trends Survey asks companies to provide information on order books, sales, sales margins, and employment, on a ‘better–worse–same’ basis. To measure short-term trends, the analysis ignores responses answering ‘same’ and focuses on the positive or negative balance provided by the difference between the ‘better-worse’ responses.

CURRENT ORDER BOOKS – Gather momentum

Members are asked if their order books are better, worse, or the same than in the previous three months. The survey shows a positive balance of +27%, almost double the level (14%) reported in November 2017 – but this figure remains low by the standards of previous surveys.


Respondents are asked to compare their current sales volumes with the preceding three months and indicate their expectations for the next three months. Current sales volumes continue to show a positive balance of +29%, an improvement to the positive balance of +11% reported by CBA’s last survey. Future sales remain in positive territory at +18%, marginally higher than reported in November 2017 (+14%).

SALES MARGINS – Positive, but weak and under pressure

Companies are asked to compare their current sales margins with the preceding three months and forecast their trend over the coming three months. Current sales margins have turned positive, recovering from the negative balances reported in the last survey, but only to the extent of a positive response of +6%. Little improvement is expected over the next three months with member companies reporting a positive balance of just +4%.

EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING – positive trend maintained

Member companies were asked if their employment levels and investment in training would be higher, lower, or remain the same over the next three months. Trends for both employment (+27%) and training (+48%) remain firmly positive.