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Comment Business & Economics

U.S. specialty chemical markets end 2nd quarter on positive note, ACC says

By Scott Jenkins |

The American Chemistry Council (ACC; Washington, D.C.; www.americanchemistry.com) reported that U.S. specialty chemicals market volumes rose 0.3 percent in June after rising only 0.1 percent in May, falling 0.3 percent in April and showing a weak first quarter. In June, of the 28 specialty chemical segments that ACC monitors, 12 markets expanded, 13 declined and three were flat. Large market volume gains (1.0 percent and over) occurred in lubricant additives and mining chemicals. On a sequential basis, diffusion was 48 percent in June, up from 43 percent in May. All changes in the data are reported on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis.

During June, the overall specialty chemicals volume index (SCI) was up 1.9 percent on a year-over-year (Y/Y) 3MMA basis. Year-earlier comparisons have been easing since the third quarter of 2018, but may be stabilizing. The index stood at 115.2 percent of its average 2012 levels in June, which is equivalent to 7.85 billion pounds (3.56 million metric tons). On a Y/Y basis, there were gains in 13 market and functional specialty chemical segments, while volumes were down in 15 segments. On a year-earlier basis, diffusion was 46 percent.

Performance chemistry reflects trends in manufacturing. For the first quarter as a whole, specialty chemical market volumes were essentially flat, and it appears that a tentative recovery began in the second quarter.

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.

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