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EARNINGS PREVIEW:US Chemical Companies See Demand Strengthen

By Jodi Xu Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES TAKING THE PULSE: Analysts expect the North American chemical industry to continue stabilizing on expectations that credit conditions won't fall further and demand will increase as economic growth resumes. Emerging markets have been key growth drivers of late while customers have shown more resilience to higher prices. First-quarter results will generally look much improved from prior-year levels, when the industry's darkest days were taking place. COMPANIES TO WATCH: Eastman Chemical Co. (EMN) reports April 22 Wall Street's Expectations: Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters most recently forecast earnings of $1.13 a share on $1.29 billion in revenue. The company had a 3-cent profit a year earlier while revenue was $1.13 billion. Key Issues: The fibers and plastics maker in February had a power outage at a Texas plant, resulting in interruption in production of certain products. The facility was back in operation as planned late March, but the company expected first-quarter earnings to take a hit of 20 cents to 25 cents a share from it. But most of the impact will be offset by improved sales and margins. DuPont Co. (DD) reports April 27 Wall Street's Expectations: Analysts anticipate earnings of $1.05 on $8.07 billion in revenue, up from 54 cents and $6.87 billion, respectively. Key Issues: DuPont said in February it expects demand at much of the company to increase moderately compared with the depressed level of 2009. It also expects the agriculture segment, DuPont's future growth point, to increase sales 10% in 2010. It has already seen orders for soy and corn seeds post double-digit growth so far this year. Ashland Inc. (ASH) reports April 27 Wall Street's Expectations: The Valvoline parent is seen earning 88 cents on $2.09 billion in revenue in its fiscal second quarter. A year earlier, the company posted earnings of 65 cents, including 20 cents of charges, and $1.99 billion in sales. Key Issues: Two ratings agencies in March upgraded Ashland to the brink of investment grade on stronger demand and improved credit quality. Worries over the heavy debt pressure from its Hercules purchase have receded. But Moody's Investors Service warned that Ashland's consumer business, led by Valvoline, might see margins contract. Dow Chemical Co. (DOW) reports April 28 Wall Street's Expectations: Analysts anticipate earnings of 29 cents on $12.9 billion in revenue, up from 3 cents and $9.09 billion. Key Issues: Dow is in an effort to concentrate on higher-margin products while moving away from basic chemicals that are exposed to volatile energy prices. Meanwhile, the company has also been deleveraging by ridding assets to pay off the debt taken on to finance last year's $16.3 billion acquisition of Rohm & Hass. (The Thomson Reuters estimates and year-earlier figures may not be comparable due to one-time items and other adjustments.) -By Jodi Xu, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-3037; jodi.xu@dowjones.com

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