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WASHINGTON (May 21, 2021) – U.S. specialty chemicals markets volumes rose 0.8% in April, continuing their recovery from the winter storms, according to data from the American Chemistry Council (ACC). Of the 28 specialty chemical segments monitored, 14 expanded, down from 22 in March, but up from three in February. Eleven segments declined and two were flat. On a sequential basis, diffusion was 55%, off from 80% in March. Three segments showed gains of 1.0% or more.

During April, overall specialty chemicals volumes were up 13.3% on a year-over-year (Y/Y) basis, recovering from the depressed levels when lockdowns were widespread. Rubber processing chemicals were suppressed by April 2020 shutdowns in tire manufacturing. Volumes stood at 107.1% of their average 2012 levels in April. This is equivalent to 7.31 billion pounds (3.32 million metric tons). On a year-earlier basis, there were gains in 27 chemical segments in April. Diffusion was 96% in April, up from 68% in March.

Specialty chemicals are materials manufactured on the basis of their unique performance or function and provide a wide variety of effects on which many other sectors and end-use products rely. They may 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 with others in the marketplace.

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Note that there are revisions to several segments as well as revisions to the underlying end-use data.

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