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U.S. Specialty Chemical Markets Hit Mixed Note in Q4

January 3, 2020

2 Min Read
U.S. Specialty Chemical Markets Hit Mixed Note in Q4

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) reported that fourth quarter U.S. specialty chemicals market volumes continue on a mixed note, with a 0.3% decline in November following a 0.1% gain in October. All changes in the data are reported on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis. Of the 28 specialty chemical segments ACC monitors, eight expanded in November, off from 14 in October. Eighteen markets declined in November and two were flat. During November, large market volume gains (1.0% and over) occurred only in electronic chemicals. On a sequential basis, diffusion was 32%, off from 55% in October.

During November, the overall specialty chemicals volume index was off 0.4% on a year-over-year (Y/Y) 3MMA basis. Year-earlier comparisons have eased after the third quarter 2018. The index stood at 112.4% of its average 2012 levels in October. This is equivalent to 7.65 billion pounds (3.47 million metric tons). On a Y/Y basis, there were gains in 10 market and functional specialty chemical segments. Compared with last year, volumes were down in 17 segments and flat in one segment. On a year-earlier basis, diffusion was 38%, a worsening comparison. 

The unadjusted data before the three-month moving average, however, actually rose 0.5% during November and follows a 0.5% decline in October. Performance chemistry reflects trends in manufacturing and activity is off from fourth quarter 2018 levels.

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 automobiles, 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.

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