The Specialty Chemicals Market Volume Index, a new tool created by Washington, D.C.-based American Chemistry Council (ACC), ended the second quarter on a soft note, falling 0.3%on a three-month moving average basis (3MMA) in June from the previous month. This follows steady declines since December as weakness in oilfield chemicals and a few other segments weighed on overall volumes. Of the twenty-eight specialty chemical segments included in the index, 13 expanded in June, 14 declined and one was flat. Lubricant additives was one of the 13 segments that actually rose during this period, posting the highest growth at 1.6%.
The overall specialty chemicals volume index was up only 0.1% year-over-year (Y/Y) also on a 3MMA basis. Lubricant additives once again bucked the trend, up 2.5% from a year ago period, although cosmetic chemicals, which was up 9% from a year ago period, was the clear front runner in the specialty chemicals segment. Year-ago comparisons were generally in the 4.0% to 6.8% range during 2012-2014, but since February of this year they have been below that range as the downturn in the oil and gas sectors affected headline volumes. Still, on a Y/Y basis, gains are fairly widespread among most market and functional specialty chemical segments and, in some cases, they are improving. Compared to last year, June volumes were up in 21 segments and down in seven segments. That said the year-earlier comparisons have been moderating.
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 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 of their end product. Individual market sectors that rely on such products include lubricants, automobiles, 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. Some areas where specialty chemicals are used include lubricant additives, adhesives, cleaning materials, cosmetic additives, construction materials, food additives, fragrances and detergents.
This data is the only timely source of market trends for 28 market and functional specialty chemical segments. Chemistry directly touches more than 96% 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.