Chemical Prices - Industrial & Engineering Chemistry (ACS Publications)


Chemical Prices. F. J. Van Antwerpen. Ind. Eng. Chem. , 1940, 32 (11), pp 1444–1445. DOI: 10.1021/ie50371a008. Publication Date: November 1940...
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CHEMICAL F. J. VAN ANTWERPEN

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RICES are bound to be of interest as the present war conditions create demands and shortages. Ready comparison with other years is not always available, and to afford such a comparison the price trends of a number of important industrial chemicals have been charted and shown in the accompanying graphs. The charts, however, represent long-time trends of chemical prices and should be considered only in that light. They are based on prices obtained from Census Bureau data on the amount and value of indicated chemical sold. The price, which is derived by dividing these two figures, may be called the "realization price", for it represents the actual return per unit of chemical sold and is a true average. The Census Bureau, however, published such data only in the years 1899, 1904, 1909, 1914, 1919, 1921, and every two years since then; consequently, the trend line shown between census years may be strikingly inaccurate. For the census year, figures are as accurate as the reporting manufacturers cared to make them. The prices for phthalic anhydride were taken from the yearly Dye Census. Almost every graph shown has a peak in the year 1921, and this may seem strange in view of the fact that this particular year was one of depression. One of the great weaknesses of census data is here revealed. A typical annual price chart would show a descending curve prior to the Korld War following the trend shown on those graphs which cover this period. During the period of the mar, 1914-18, prices rocketed to establish, in many cases, all-time highs. Unfortunately no data were collected for these periods, and the price peaks are not shown. Immediately folloning the war there was a general slump in chemical and other commodities. The 1919 census figures show what is apparently, up to 1919, the highest point yet reached. In reality the 1919 figures are merely the tail end of a war boom and, while considerably higher than pre-war levels, are much lower than those produced in the war scramble. The year 1920 witnessed one of the strangest periods of activity chemical industry has yet experienced-a veritable buying binge which made prices climb rapidly toward another high, in some particular materials even exceeding the peak of the war period. The most powerful single factor in this buying wave was the purchase and exportation of chemicals to Japan; the general consensus was that this nation would act as selling agent for the n,hole Far East. T h a t this was wrong was proved in the following year when another depression set in and the flow of chemicals was reversed. The census figures are high because of two probable reasons: (1) Contracts let during the 1920 season were filled at favorable producer prices; (2) the prices still reflected the high spot of the year before, which was a veritable boom on top of a first boom. Thus the census figures give the incorrect picture of a gradual steady increase in prices to 1921, whereas a correct analysis shows two important peaks which were entirely missed. The utility of the reproduced graphs lies in the showing of the long-time swing of prices and more particularly in the effects technologic advancement has made in each industry. 1444

PRICES

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The effect of the contact process and the beginnings of the by-product recovery on the price of sulfuric acid are shown between the years 1904 and 1914. The great dip in the price of anhydrous ammonia between 1925 and 1927 is due to overproduction caused by the entrance of the so-called synthetic ammonia producers into the field. The drop in price of acetic acid during 1930-31 is also due to synthetic production, but here we have a lag between the development of the technical procedures and the growth of an industry t80a point where it is able to influence prices. This is a common situation in price studies and one which makes accurate interpretation difficult, as technologic improvements often make only gradual reductions in price.

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The charts showing organic chemicals indicate a steady price decline, and this is due not only t o improved technical processes as the organic industry came of age, but also to increasing demands and competition as new uses for the products were developed.

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