The Specialty Chemicals Market Volume Index, a tool created by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) continued the second quarter of 2016 on a soft note, slipping 0.3% 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% decline in April and a 0.2% drop in March, according to ACC. Weakness in oilfield chemicals and mining chemicals has reportedly weighed on overall volumes. Of the 28 specialty chemical segments monitored, eight expanded in May, with plastic additives and plasticizers experiencing large gains (1.0% or more) in underlying market volumes, according to ACC.
The overall specialty chemicals volume index was off 1.8% 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 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, according to ACC. 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, according to ACC.
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