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Chemical maker DuPont (DD-N) cut its full-year profit outlook on Friday, citing slower growth in some of its businesses due to weakness in the company's end markets, sending its shares down almost 5 percent.
DuPont's warning follows a similar outlook cut from German specialty chemicals group Wacker Chemie and negative commentary from larger peer BASF, as the chemicals industry battles shrinking inventories at customers amid global economic uncertainty.
The chemical industry's financial health often serves as a barometer for the global economy since its products are used to produce nearly every consumer good, from toys and toothbrushes to smartphones and solar panels.
DuPont is the largest global producer of titanium dioxide, a white pigment also known as Ti02 that is used to make paint and other consumer goods.
"The earnings revision reflects de-stocking across polymers and certain industrial supply chains that has accelerated during the fourth quarter," DuPont Chief Executive Ellen Kullman said in a statement.
"Consumer electronics demand has further softened, and housing and construction markets remain weak," she added.
Analyst Hassan Ahmed, of Alembic Global Advisors, said the warning came as a surprise, since the company had raised its outlook in October when it announced higher-than-expected third-quarter earnings.
"Macro economic trends started turning south in the summer, so I was expecting this, but I am concerned because they had upped their guidance in October.
"Clearly things have gone horribly wrong in November and December for them to make this flip-around," said Ahmed.
He noted DuPont cited polymers, which are used in more consumer-oriented products, while sectors like agriculture and food remain strong.
Looking ahead, he said he expected de-stocking to continue at least until after the Chinese new year in February. "I do not expect a substantially up year in 2012," Ahmed said.
For 2011, Wilmington, Delaware-based DuPont said it sees earnings in the range of $3.87-$3.95 US, down from its earlier forecast of $3.97-$4.05. But DuPont had raised the lower end of that estimate in October from $3.90. Analysts, on average, currently expect DuPont to come in with a full-year profit of $4.03 a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.