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WASHINGTON (May 20, 2020) – The American Chemistry Council (ACC) reported that U.S. specialty chemicals market volumes fell 11.3 percent in April, accelerating from a 4.0 percent decline in March and a 0.5 percent decline in February. Of the 28 specialty chemicals segments ACC monitors, none expanded in April. On a sequential basis, diffusion was 0 percent, the same as in March and down from 48 percent in February and 63 percent in January. The sharp decline in market volumes in April reflects the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and mandated government lockdowns on the U.S. economy.

During April, overall specialty chemicals volumes were off 14.5 percent on a year-over-year (Y/Y) basis. Volumes stood at 95.6 percent of their average 2012 levels in April. This is equivalent to 6.51 billion pounds (2.95 million metric tons). On a Y/Y basis, there was a gain in only one market and functional specialty chemical segment – electronic chemicals. On a year-earlier basis, diffusion was 4 percent, a marked deterioration from earlier in the year.

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 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.

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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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