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U.S. Specialty Chemical Market Volumes Dipped in April

May 24, 2019

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) reported that U.S. specialty chemicals market volumes fell 0.3% in April, reflecting soft manufacturing activity, following a 0.3% decline in March and 0.2% decline in February. All changes in the data are reported on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis. Of the 28 specialty chemical segments ACC monitors, only seven expanded in April, off from eight in March and 12 in February. Nineteen markets experienced decline in April and two were flat. During April, large market volume gains (1.0% and over) occurred only in construction chemicals and textile specialties.

During April, the overall specialty chemicals volume index was up 2.2% on a year-over-year (Y/Y) 3MMA basis. Year-earlier comparisons have been easing since 3rd quarter 2018. The index stood at 114.8% of its average 2012 levels in January. This is equivalent to 7.82 billion pounds (3.55 million metric tons). On a Y/Y basis, there were gains in 16 market and functional specialty chemical segments. Compared with last year, volumes were down in 12 segments.

Performance chemistry reflects trends in manufacturing. For the first quarter as a whole, specialty chemical market volumes were essentially flat, and the second quarter began on a soft note.

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.

This data is the only timely source of market trends for twenty-eight market and functional specialty chemical segments. Chemistry directly touches over 96% 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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