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U.S. specialty chemicals markets rebounded in August, ACC says

By Scott Jenkins |

Reflecting a rebound of manufacturing production, U.S. specialty chemicals market volumes rose 0.2 percent in August after falling 0.1 percent in July, rising 0.2 percent in June and a generally weak early 2019, according to the American Chemistry Council (ACC; Washington, D.C.; www.americanchemistry.com). All changes in the data are reported on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis. Of the 28 specialty chemical segments ACC monitors, 18 expanded in August – double the figure for July – seven markets declined and three were flat. Large market volume gains (1.0 percent and over) occurred only in rubber processing chemicals. On a sequential basis, diffusion was 70 percent, up sharply from 38 percent in July.

During August, the overall specialty chemicals volume index was up 0.8 percent on a year-over-year (Y/Y) 3MMA basis. Year-earlier comparisons eased after third quarter 2018 and August 2019 marks the first improving comparison. The index stood at 114.9 percent of its average 2012 levels in August. This is equivalent to 7.83 billion pounds (3.55 million metric tons). On a Y/Y basis, there were gains in 13 market and functional specialty chemical segments. Compared to last year, volumes were down in 15 segment. On a year-earlier basis, diffusion was 46 percent.

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 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.

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