US March chemical shipments decline for first time in 28 months

02 May 2012 17:06  [Source: ICIS news]

A barge on the Mississippi riverHOUSTON (ICIS)--The value of shipments of US-made chemicals in March dropped year on year for the first time in 28 months, according to data released on Wednesday by the US Department of Commerce.

The Census data showed that the value of US land and water chemical shipments totaled $62.05bn (€47.16bn) in March, down by 2.5% from $63.64bn a year earlier.

March ended a string of 27 months of year-on-year gains for US chemical shipments, since December 2009. March 2012 shipments were also slightly lower than the February 2012 total.

The value of total shipments for all US manufacturing industries in March extended its string of year on year gains to 28 straight months, but just barely.

Total manufacturing shipments rose by 1% to $466.19bn, compared with $461.45bn in March 2011, according to the data. This includes fabricated metal and wood products, furniture, all machinery including computers, transportation and electrical equipment.

Chemicals ranked as the second largest non-durable goods industry in the US in March, surpassed only by petroleum and coal products, which had a shipment value of  $76.98bn.

The percentage gain in March chemical shipments trailed all manufactured non-durable goods shipped in the US, which rose almost 2% to $257.41bn from $253.38bn in the same month last year.

The US Census Bureau separates chemical shipments into four sectors: pesticides and fertilizers; pharmaceuticals; petrochemicals; and chemicals used in paints, coatings and adhesives. Only two of the sectors showed gains in March.

The largest – petrochemicals – declined for the fourth straight month compared with the same month of 2011. Petrochemical shipments in March totalled $38.85bn, down by 5% compared with $41.015bn in the same month last year.

The only significant gain came in pesticides and fertilizer shipments, valued at $5.4bn, up by 18% over $4.57bn in March 2011. That sector boomed last year, with monthly double-digit percentage increases from a spike in global demand, particularly in Asia and South America.

Shipments in the smallest sector – paints, coatings and adhesives – continued to rise, increasing by 3% with $2.68bn in shipments compared with $2.60bn in March 2011.

Pharmaceuticals declined for the eighth month in the past nine, with $15.11bn shipped in March, down by 2% compared with $15.44bn in the same month of 2011.

($1 = €0.76)

By: Lane Kelley
+1 713 525 2653

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