Specialty Chemicals Soft Due to Oil Field & Mining Weakness
The Specialty Chemicals Market Volume Index, a tool created by the American Chemistry Council (ACC; Washington, D.C.; www.americanchemistry.com) continued the second quarter of 2016 on a soft note, slipping 0.3 percent on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis in May. The trend has been choppy and May’s decline was preceded by a revised 0.5 percent decline in April and a 0.2 percent drop in March. Weakness in oilfield chemicals and mining chemicals has weighed on overall volumes. Of the twenty-eight specialty chemical segments we monitor, eight expanded in May, with plastic additives and plasticizers experiencing large gains (1.0 percent or more) in underlying market volumes.
The overall specialty chemicals volume index was off 1.8 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, gains are fairly widespread among most 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.