US specialty chemicals market volumes rose 0.7% in May and are now above the pre-winter storm levels of January, according to data from the American Chemistry Council (ACC). Activity remains off from pre-pandemic levels. Of the 28 specialty chemical segments monitored, 20 expanded in May, up from 16 in April and three in February. Seven segments declined and one was flat. On a sequential basis, diffusion was 73% in May, up from 57% in April and 11% in February. During May, 10 segments showed gains of 1.0% or more.
During May, overall specialty chemicals volumes were up 13.7% on a year-over-year (Y/Y) basis, rebounding from the depressed levels of last year. Rubber processing chemicals were especially affected by shutdowns in tire manufacturing. Total volumes stood at 99.0% of their average 2017 levels, equivalent to 7.26 billion lb (3.29 million metric tons). On a year-earlier basis, 26 chemical segments expanded in May. Diffusion was 93% in May, off slightly from 96% in April.
Specialty chemicals are materials manufactured on the basis of their unique performance or function and provide a wide variety of effects on which many other sectors and end-use products rely. They may 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.