U.S. specialty chemicals market volumes rose 0.6% in June, the same gain as in May, leaving volumes off 3.7% from pre-coronavirus levels, the American Chemistry Council (ACC; Washington, D.C.; www.americanchemistry.com) reported. Of the 28 specialty chemical segments that ACC monitors, 15 expanded in June, off from 19 in May. Twelve segments declined in June, while one was neutral. On a sequential basis, diffusion was 55%, down from 70% in May. During June, seven segments showed gains of 1.0% or more, ACC said.
During June, overall specialty chemicals volumes were up 11.3% on a year-over-year (Y/Y) basis from the depressed levels of last year. Total volumes stood at 102.3% of their average 2017 levels in June, equivalent to 7.51 billion pounds (3.41 million metric tons). On a year-earlier basis, 27 chemical segments showed gains and diffusion was 96% in June, up from 93% in May.
Since last year, the recovery has largely been V-shaped. At the mid-point of the year, volumes were up 2.7% year-to-date. If the economic recovery continues, 2021 should be a good year for specialty chemicals.
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.
Specialty chemicals differ from commodity chemicals. Specialties may only have one or two uses, whereas commodities may have multiple or different applications for each chemical. Commodity chemicals comprise 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.