The Dow Chemical Co. could offer a snapshot of what challenges are ahead for the global economy when it reports third-quarter results Thursday before the stock markets open.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: The Midland, Mich., manufacturing giant produces materials used in nearly every business sector and region of the world. That makes the company sensitive to shifts in global economic growth.

Dow Chemical's business has been hurt by Europe's debt crisis and slower growth in China. Manufacturers, construction businesses and some transportation customers have reduced demand for Dow products. The company's coatings and materials for electronic devices also have been weak.

Some of that has been offset by strength in the agriculture and automotive industries, Dow Chairman and CEO Andrew N. Liveris told analysts during a Credit Suisse conference last month. Demand from personal care product companies and health-care businesses has been steady, he said.

Liveris said that Dow doesn't expect much improvement in the global economy before the end of the year, given the challenging environment, He sees the potential for moderate improvement in 2013.

The company reshuffled its management structure during the quarter, establishing an executive committee of five individuals. The goal is to enable Dow to react more quickly to economic challenges.

Shares of Dow Chemical fell 8.1 percent during the quarter, ending at $28.96 per share on Sept. 30.

WHY IT MATTERS: Dow Chemical manufactures basic materials used in an array of products from televisions and toys to automobiles and crops. The Midland, Mich., company's reach can offer a broad picture of global economic growth.

WHAT'S EXPECTED: Analysts have lowered their expectations for Dow's results recently to reflect slower global economy. Those surveyed by FactSet predict, on average, earnings of 37 cents per share on revenue of $14.18 billion.

They will be looking for more details on trends among customer markets, an outlook for raw material prices and priorities for use of cash.

LAST YEAR'S QUARTER: Dow Chemical reported net income of $815 million, or 69 cents per share, on revenue of $15.11 billion.

DUPONT DOWNER: Rival DuPont Co. on Tuesday reported a big drop in quarterly profit and missed Wall Street expectations. The company announced a restructuring that includes 1,500 layoffs.