Roll Out the Barrel

SEAN GALLUP / GETTY IMAGES

PUMP IT UP: A boost in demand raised oil prices but has had little economic impact so far

Crude oil is the single most important raw material for the chemical industry. So when oil prices rise sharplyas they have over the past few monthschemical companies usually feel the pinch hardest. But when the big German chemical firm Degussa announced its earnings last month, the news was far from gloomy. Heinz-Joachim Wagner, Degussa's chief financial officer, calculated that the firm's raw-material costs had risen by more than a third over the past 18 months. Still, sales and earnings were up in the first half of this year and Wagner says he expects the trend to continue for the whole of...

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