HOUSTON (May 28)—Synthetic rubber producers experienced a period of "robust recovery" during the first three months of 2003, according to the International Institute of Synthetic Rubber Producers. SR demand ended the first quarter 8 percent higher than the same period last year, said Britt Theismann, IISRP information and systems director. Shipments were 3.9 percent higher than in the fourth quarter of 2002, he added. Markets in North America and Western Europe recorded the sharpest increases at 6.9 and 4.8 percent, respectively, Theismann said. However, he said, growth in China slowed to 3.4 percent, well down from its previous level of 13 percent. The positive market trends also reflected in global SR inventories, which fell to 54 days of supply in the first quarter this year, down from a high of more than 64 days in the second quarter of 2001.