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Comment Business & Economics

U.S. specialty chemical markets start year on slower note, ACC says

By Scott Jenkins |

The American Chemistry Council (ACC; Washington, D.C.; reported today that U.S. specialty chemicals market volumes gained 0.1 percent in January, following a 0.8 percent gain in December. All changes in the data are reported on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis.

Weather may have played a role in the slow start to the year. Of the 28 specialty chemical segments monitored by ACC, twenty expanded in January and eight experienced decline. During January, large market volume gains (1.0 percent and over) occurred in catalysts, corrosion inhibitors electronic chemicals, lubricant additives, oilfield chemicals, plastic compounding, rubber processing chemicals, and water management chemicals.

The overall specialty chemicals volume index was up 5.3 percent on a year-over-year (Y/Y) 3MMA basis. The index stood at 111.0 percent of its average 2012 levels. This is equivalent to 7.65 billion pounds (3.47 million metric tons). On a year-over-year basis, there were gains among 24 market and functional specialty chemical segments. Compared to last year, volumes were down in only four segments.

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.

These data are the only timely source of market trends for twenty-eight market and functional specialty chemical segments. Chemistry directly touches over ninety-six percent 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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