The American Chemistry Council (ACC; Washington, D.C.; www.americanchemistry.com) reported that U.S. specialty chemicals market volumes grew 1.1% in July, a much faster pace than the 0.3% gain in June. This left volumes off 2.4% from pre-COVID levels. Of the 28 specialty chemical segments that ACC monitors, 23 expanded in July, up from 13 in June. Four segments declined in July and one was neutral, ACC said. On a sequential basis, diffusion was 84%, up from 46% in June. During July, 16 segments featured gains of 1.0% or more.
During July, overall specialty chemicals volumes were up 10.1% on a year-over-year (Y/Y) basis. Total volumes stood at 103.7% of their average 2017 levels in July. This is equivalent to 7.61 billion pounds, or 3.45 million metric tons. On a year-earlier basis, all 28 chemical segments showed gains. Diffusion was 100% in July, up from 96% in June.
Since last year, the recovery has largely been V-shaped. Entering the third quarter, volumes were up 3.9% year-to-date (YTD). If the economic recovery continues, then 2021 should be a good year for specialties.
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.
This data set is the only timely source of market trends for 28 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 shed light on how various consumer end-use markets are performing compared with others in the marketplace.