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  • Press Release

Chemical Activity Barometer Falls in August

Jennifer Scott

WASHINGTON (August 31, 2021) – The Chemical Activity Barometer (CAB), a leading economic indicator created by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), fell 0.5% in August on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis following steadily easing gains in May, June and July. On a year-over-year (Y/Y) basis, the barometer rose 12.5% in August (3MMA).

The unadjusted data show a 1.6% decline in August after flat readings in July and June. The diffusion index eased to 82% in August. The diffusion index marks the number of positive contributors relative to the total number of indicators monitored. The CAB reading for July was revised downward by 0.53 points and the reading for June was revised downward by 0.33 points. The August data are provisional and subject to revision.

“The latest CAB reading is consistent with expansion of commerce, trade and industry, but clearly growth has peaked, with slower growth ahead.” said Kevin Swift, chief economist at ACC.

The CAB has four main components, each consisting of a variety of indicators: 1) production; 2) equity prices; 3) product prices; and 4) inventories and other indicators.

In August, production-related indicators were up slightly. Trends in construction-related resins and related performance chemistry improved. Resins and chemistry used in other durable goods increased. Plastic resins used in packaging and for consumer and institutional applications showed gains. Performance chemistry for industry was solid and exports grew. Equity prices declined amid geopolitical uncertainty and fears about the Delta variant. Product and input prices expanded.
Inventory and other supply chain indicators were positive.

The CAB is a leading economic indicator derived from a composite index of chemical industry activity. Due to its early position in the supply chain, chemical industry activity has been found to consistently lead the U.S. economy’s business cycle, and the barometer can be used to determine turning points and likely trends in the broader economy. Month-to-month movements can be volatile, so a three-month moving average of the CAB reading is provided. This provides a more consistent and illustrative picture of national economic trends.

Applying the CAB back to 1912, it has been shown to provide a lead of two to 14 months, with an average lead of eight months at cycle peaks as determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The median lead was also eight months. At business cycle troughs, the CAB leads by one to seven months, with an average lead of four months. The median lead was three months. The CAB is rebased to the average lead (in months) of an average 100 in the base year (the year 2012 was used) of a reference time series. The latter is the Federal Reserve’s Industrial Production Index.

Chemical Activity Barometer Press Release chart

The CAB comprises indicators relating to the production of chlorine and other alkalies, pigments, plastic resins and other selected basic industrial chemicals; chemical company stock data; hours worked in chemicals; publicly sourced, chemical price information; end-use (or customer) industry sales-to-inventories; and several broader leading economic measures (building permits and new orders). Each month, ACC provides a barometer number reflecting activity data for the current month, as well as a three-month moving average. The CAB was developed by the Economics Department at ACC.

Current-month, unadjusted readings of the CAB are based on high-frequency weekly and daily data. For example, we use equity data as of the Thursday before the release date. Using mid-month data can lead to large revisions if conditions appreciably change in the second half of the month. We have moved the release dates for the CAB to the last Tuesday of each month. We hope this will minimize the revisions.

For the full data set, please visit https://www.americanchemistry.com/CAB-vs-Industrial-Production/. The next CAB is planned for September 28, 2021 at 9:10 a.m. ET.

American Chemistry Council

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) represents the leading companies engaged in the multibillion-dollar business of chemistry. ACC members apply the science of chemistry to make innovative products, technologies and services that make people's lives better, healthier and safer. ACC is committed to improved environmental, health, safety and security performance through Responsible Care®; common sense advocacy addressing major public policy issues; and health and environmental research and product testing. ACC members and chemistry companies are among the largest investors in research and development, and are advancing products, processes and technologies to address climate change, enhance air and water quality, and progress toward a more sustainable, circular economy.

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