The American Chemistry Council (ACC) Specialty Chemicals Market Volume Index fell further during the fourth quarter, slipping back 0.2% on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis in November. This follows a 0.1% decline in October and a generally weak first half of the year. Weakness in 2015 remains centered on oilfield chemicals and a few other segments that combined weighed on overall volumes, according to the ACC. Although there was weakness beyond oil chemicals during November, market volumes excluding oilfield chemicals were essentially flat, suggesting some stabilization of overall U.S. industrial activity.
The overall specialty chemicals volume index was off 2.0% year-over-year (Y/Y) also on a 3MMA basis. Year-earlier comparisons were generally in the 4.0% to 6.8% range during 2012-2014 but since February of this year 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. Still, on a Y/Y basis, gains remain fairly widespread among most market and functional specialty chemical segments, according to the ACC. With few exceptions, however, year-earlier comparisons have been moderating. Headline volumes are up only 0.3% year-to-date (YTD).
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