December 2016

U.S. specialty chemicals markets gather momentum during fourth quarter

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) reported that U.S. specialty chemicals market volumes rose 0.4% in November. This follows a revised 0.1% gain in October and a 0.2% gain in September. 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 we monitor, 21 expanded in November and seven experienced decline. During November, large gains (1.0% and over) were noted in cosmetic chemicals, mining chemicals, oilfield chemicals and specialties.

The overall specialty chemicals volume index was off 0.7% year-over-year (Y/Y) on a 3MMA basis. The index stood at 105.2% of its average 2012 levels. This is equivalent to 7.25 billion pounds (3.29 million metric tons). The downturn in the oil and gas sector affected headline volumes and weakness spread to other segments as well. Year-earlier comparisons have been negative since the second quarter of 2015. Lately, the year-earlier declines have been moderating. On a Y/Y basis, there were gains among sixteen 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. 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.

 This data is the only timely source of market trends for twenty-eight market and functional specialty chemical segments. Chemistry directly touches over ninety-six percent 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.

 

Current Prior Year/ Year-to-
Month Month Year Date
Nov 16/    Oct 16/ Nov 16/ YTD 16/
Oct 16 Sept 16/ Nov 15 YTD 15
U.S. Total 0.4 0.1 -0.7 -1.4
Adhesives & Sealants 0.2 0.0 9.4 6.9
Antioxidants -0.2 -0.1 -1.7 -0.1
Biocides 0.5 0.0 2.4 2.6
Catalysts 0.2 0.1 0.2 1.0
Coatings 0.5 0.2 1.4 1.9
Construction Chemicals 0.7 0.3 2.3 1.9
Corrosion Inhibitors 0.2 0.3 0.0 -1.5
Cosmetic Chemicals 1.0 0.4 0.5 2.4
Dyes 0.8 0.6 1.2 -0.2
Electronic Chemicals -0.3 -0.4 -7.5 -7.0
Flame Retardants 0.2 0.0 -0.9 -1.3
Flavors & Fragrances 0.8 0.0 1.0 2.6
Food Additives 0.2 -0.2 2.8 2.9
Foundry Chemicals 0.8 0.4 -5.5 -6.9
I&I Cleaners 0.4 0.1 2.2 2.0
Lubricant Additives 0.3 -0.8 -2.6 -0.6
Mining Chemicals 2.2 2.8 -2.2 -8.2
Oilfield Chemicals 1.0 0.6 -11.7 -14.8
Paint Additives 0.3 0.1 2.3 1.9
Paper Additives 0.6 0.5 -1.2 -2.7
Pigments -0.2 -0.4 -4.6 -4.6
Plastic Additives -0.9 -0.1 0.7 0.6
Plasticizers -1.1 -0.1 0.4 0.2
Plastic Compounding 0.2 0.0 -0.6 -0.5
Printing Ink 0.9 0.4 0.1 1.5
Rubber Processing -0.3 0.0 -4.0 -2.0
Textile Specialties 1.2 0.6 1.8 -0.8
Water Management Chemicals -0.2 0.1 2.2 2.3