Germany's chemicals sector complained Wednesday that business got off to a sluggish start this year, but it has not given up hope for a recovery in demand later.
"For the chemicals industry, 2013 has started without the turnaround we'd hoped for, but without any setbacks either," the VCI industry federation wrote in its regular quarterly report.
The sector, which with 434,000 employees is Germany's third-largest industrial sector, saw output slip by 0.5 percent in the first three months, compared with the preceding quarter, VCI said.
On an annualised basis, the decline was 0.7 percent.
Although factory prices slipped by 0.3 percent, industry-wide sales inched higher by 1.0 percent to 45.8 billion euros ($59 billion) in the three-month period, driven largely by overseas demand, VCI said.
And that provided the source for "confidence in the industry that the trend will remain upwards in the coming months," the federation wrote.
"For 2013, we're cautiously optimistic," said VCI president Karl-Ludwig Kley.
"The German chemicals industry has done its homework. But the economic environment remains difficult, particularly in Europe," he said.
VCI said it was sticking to its forecast for a 1.5-percent increase in output for the whole of the year. And with chemical prices projected to rise by 0.5 percent, industry-wide sales were expected to increase by 2.0 percent to 190 billion euros, it predicted.
VCI represents around 1,650 chemicals companies in Germany, or more than 90 percent of the industry.
Explore further: SAP confirms forecasts after 'solid' first quarter