The Specialty Chemicals Market Volume Index, a tool created by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) fell at the end of the fourth quarter, slipping back 0.1% on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis in December after a 0.7% decline in November and a generally weak first half of the year. Weakness in 2015 was centered in oilfield chemicals and a few other segments that combined weighed on overall volumes. Although there was weakness beyond oil chemicals during December, market volumes excluding oilfield chemicals rose slightly, suggesting some stabilization of overall U.S. industrial activity, according to ACC.
“The moderate December decline, as compared to a month earlier, is encouraging,” says Kevin Swift, ACC’s chief economist and the index’s creator.
The overall specialty chemicals volume index was off 2.7% year-over-year (Y/Y) also on a 3MMA basis. Year-earlier comparisons were generally in the 4% to 6.8% range during 2012-2014 but since February 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. On a Y/Y basis, gains remain fairly widespread among most market and functional specialty chemical segments. With few exceptions, however, year-earlier comparisons have been moderating. Headline volumes are off 0.3% for 2015 as a whole. Excluding oilfield chemicals, volume was up 2.8%.
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