June 06, 2020

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U.S. specialty chemicals market finish first quarter on a strong note
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Photo courtesy of Armin Kübelbeck.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) reported that U.S. specialty chemicals market volumes ended the first quarter on a strong note, rising 0.6% in March. This follows a similar 0.6% gain in February. Volumes have generally been moving up since May. All changes in the data are reported on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis.

Of the 28 specialty chemical segments being monitored, 20 expanded in March compared to the previous month, five markets declined and three were flat. During March, large gains (1.0% and over) occurred in mining chemicals and oilfield chemicals. Lubricant additives were a close third, rising 0.9%.

The overall specialty chemicals volume index was up 1.9% on a year-over-year (Y/Y) 3MMA basis. The index stood at 106.1% of its average 2012 levels. This is equivalent to 7.34 billion pounds (3.33 million metric tonnes). The downturn in the oil and gas sector had affected headline volumes and weakness spread to other segments. Year-earlier comparisons were negative from the second quarter 2015 through second quarter 2016, but improving as the recovery in the oil and gas sector has engaged and is now aiding headline volumes. On a year-on-year basis, there were gains in 19 market and functional specialty chemical 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.  Specialty chemicals differ from commodity chemicals in that 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.

This data is the only timely source of market trends for 28 market and functional specialty chemical segments.

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