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Specialty Chemicals Market Softens in Second Quarter

June 25, 2015

The Specialty Chemicals Market Volume Index, a new tool created by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), remains on a soft note, falling 0.4 percent in May from the previous month, on a three-month-moving average (3MMA).

This follows steady declines since December as weakness in oilfield chemicals and a few other segments weighed on overall volumes. Of the 28 specialty chemical segments monitored, 11 expanded in May, 14 declined, and three were flat.

The overall specialty chemicals volume index was up just 0.6 percent year-over-year (Y/Y) also on a 3MMA basis. Year-earlier comparisons were generally in the 4.0 percent to 6.8 percent range since January 2012, but since February of this year they have been below that range as the downturn in the oil and gas sectors affected headline volumes. Still, on a Y/Y basis, gains are fairly widespread among most market and functional specialty chemical segments and, in some cases, they are improving. Compared to last year, May volumes were up in 21 segments and down in only seven segments. Year-earlier comparisons have clearly moderated. Similar patterns were seen in year-to-date (YTD) comparisons.

Specialty chemicals are materials manufactured on the basis of the unique performance or function and provide a wide variety of effects on which many other sectors and end-use products rely. They can be individual molecules or mixtures of molecules, known as formulations. The physical and chemical characteristics of the single molecule or mixtures along with the composition of the mixtures influence the performance end product. Individual market sectors that rely on such products include automobile, aerospace, agriculture, cosmetics and food, among others.

Specialty chemicals differ from commodity chemicals. They may only have one or two uses, while commodities may have multiple or different applications for each chemical. Commodity chemicals make up most of the production volume in the global marketplace, while specialty chemicals make up most of the diversity in commerce at any given time, and are relatively high value with greater market growth rates. Some areas where specialty chemicals are used include adhesives, cleaning materials, cosmetic additives, construction materials, food additives, fragrances, and detergents

This data is the only timely source of market trends for 28 market and functional specialty chemical segments. Chemistry directly touches over 96 percent of all manufactured goods, and trends in these specialty chemical segments provide a detailed view of trends in manufacturing. The data also sheds light on how various consumer end-use markets are performing compared to others in the marketplace.

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