US specialty chemical markets improve in August

Sept. 18, 2020
Of the 28 specialty chemical segments that ACC monitors, 27 expanded in August, an improvement from the expansion in 26 markets in July and the decline across all markets in April.
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WASHINGTON (September 17, 2020; ACC news release) — The American Chemistry Council (ACC) reported that with the recovery in the U.S. economy slowing, U.S. specialty chemicals market volumes rose by 0.5 percent in August, off from an upwardly-revised 2.2 percent gain in July, a 5.0 percent gain in June, a 0.3 percent gain in May, and the record 12.7 percent decline in April. Of the 28 specialty chemical segments that ACC monitors, 27 expanded in August, an improvement from the expansion in 26 markets in July and the decline across all markets in April. On a sequential basis, diffusion was 96 percent in August, an improvement from 93 percent in July. It was 0 percent in April. Of the 25 segments that showed growth in August, 15 featured gains of 1.0 percent or more.

During August, overall specialty chemicals volumes were off by 9.3 percent on a year-over-year (Y/Y) basis. Volumes stood at 101.9 percent of their average 2012 levels in August. This is equivalent to 6.94 billion pounds (3.15 million metric tons). On a Y/Y basis, there were gains in only three market and functional specialty chemical segments: Cosmetic additives, electronic chemicals, and flavors and fragrances. On a year-earlier basis, diffusion was 11 percent in August, equal to July and June, but much worse than at the start of the year.

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. 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 percent 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 to others in the marketplace.

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