Specialty chemical market volumes declined last month, though their levels were still higher than one year ago, according to the latest numbers from the American Chemistry Council.
The industry group's weekly economic report said chemical volume declined 0.5 percent in January compared to the previous month, partially due to inclement winter weather but also stemming from weakness in the oil industry and other sectors.
Half of the 28 specialty chemical groups monitored by the ACC expanded their market volumes last month, led by strong gains in electronic chemicals, foundry chemicals, mining chemicals and lubricant additives.
Thirteen segments saw declines while one segment remained flat compared to December numbers.
Overall, the volume of specialty chemicals was up 6.2 percent compared to January 2014, based on a three-month moving average. Antioxidants, cosmetic additives, flame retardants, foundry chemicals and rubber processing each saw year-over-year gains of at least 10 percent; plasticizers and paper additives were the only segments to see declines over that span.
In more good news for the chemical industry, the ACC's tracking of railcar loadings — which the group called the best "real time" indicator of industrial activity — rose by just over 1,000 last month. The 31,878 January loadings represented the highest level since April.
ACC analysts still expect the economy as a whole to grow by 3.2 percent this year, but while their expectations for consumer spending increased slightly, the group tempered their expectations for business investment, which fell from a 5.5 percent projected increase this year to 5.1 percent.