U.S. Specialty Chemicals Market Decline Low Demand and Strong Dollar Take Their Toll on Chemicals: The Downward Trend Continues for US Specialties

Editor: Dominik Stephan

With a low demand from customer branches such as oil and gas and a strong dollar affected product exports, US specialty chemicals sales continue their downward trend: The market declined for the third time in a row, ACC figures show.

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U.S. Specialty Chemicals Market Declines for Third Consecutive Month
U.S. Specialty Chemicals Market Declines for Third Consecutive Month
(Picture: ACC)

Washington D.C./USA – New figures by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) indicate a continuing decline for specialty chemicals in the US: The ACC’s Specialty Chemicals Market Volume Index slipped 0.4 percent in June, following a 0.3 percent decline in May and a 0.5 percent decline in April. All data is measured on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis. Of the twenty-eight specialty chemical segments we monitor, eleven expanded in June, two were stable and the remaining fifteen experienced decline. Large gains (1.0 percent and over) were noted in only rubber processing chemicals.

The overall specialty chemicals volume index was off 1.4 percent year-over-year (Y/Y) also on a 3MMA basis. Year-earlier comparisons were generally in the 4.0 percent to 6.8 percent range during 2012-2014 but since February 2015 they have fallen below that range as the downturn in the oil and gas sectors affected headline volumes.

In addition, the strong U.S. dollar has adversely affected a number of export-oriented customer industries. Weakness spread to other segments as well and year-earlier comparisons have been negative since second quarter 2015. Still, on a Y/Y basis, there were gains among market and functional specialty chemical segments. With few exceptions, however, year-earlier comparisons have been moderating.

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. Some areas where specialty chemicals are used include adhesives, cleaning materials, cosmetic additives, construction materials, food additives, fragrances and detergents.

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