Comment Processing & Handling

U.S. specialty chemical markets experience rebound in May, 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 1.4 percent in May, an improvement from the record 12.5 percent drop in April and declining activity since January. Of the 28 specialty chemical segments that ACC monitors, 22 expanded in May, an improvement from the decline across all segments in April. On a sequential basis, diffusion was 79 percent, an improvement from the zero percent reading in April.

During May, overall specialty chemicals volumes were off by 14.4 percent on year-over-year (Y/Y). Volumes stood at 95.7 percent of their average 2012 levels in May. This is equivalent to 6.52 billion pounds (2.96 million metric tons). On a Y/Y basis, only two market and functional specialty chemical segments showed gains: Cosmetic additives and electronic chemicals. On a year-earlier basis, diffusion was 7 percent in May, an improvement from April but a marked deterioration from the start of the year.

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. 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.

This data set is the only timely source of market trends for 28 market and functional specialty chemical segments. Chemistry directly touches over 96 percent of all manufactured goods, and trends in these specialty chemical segments provide a detailed view of trends in manufacturing. The data also shed light on how various consumer end-use markets are performing compared to others in the marketplace.

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