U.S. specialty chemicals market volumes expanded by 1.2% in December following an upwardly-revised 0.6% gain in November, according to the American Chemistry Council (ACC; Washington, D.C.; www.americanchemistry.com). Of the 28 specialty chemical segments monitored by ACC, 23 expanded in December, up from 13 in November, while one segment was stable and four declined. On a sequential basis, diffusion was 84% in December, up from 48% in November. Of the 23 segments that expanded in December, 19 featured gains of 1.0 percent or more, ACC said.
During December, overall specialty chemicals volumes were off 4.9% on a year-over-year (Y/Y) basis, an improvement from November. Volumes stood at 106.9 percent of their average 2012 levels in December. This is equivalent to 7.28 billion pounds (3.30 million metric tons). On a year-earlier basis, six chemical segments showed gains: Cosmetic additives, dyes, electronic chemicals, flavors and fragrances, plastic compounding, and water management chemicals. On a year-earlier basis, diffusion was 18% in December. For 2020 as a whole, volumes were off 7.1%.
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% 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.
by Scott Jenkins
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