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      Blog Home   |   Economic Trends


      Blog Home   |   Economic Trends

      Weekly Chemistry and Economic Trends (August 13, 2021)

      2.8 points to 99.75.4% Y/Y3.0% to $13.0 billion
      Small Business Optimism Consumer PricesChemical Exports


      Running tab of macro indicators: 15 out of 20

      Macro Table

      The number of new jobless claims declined by 12,000 to 375,000 during the week ending 7 August. Continuing claims declined by 114,000 to 2.866 million and the insured unemployment rate for the week ending 31 July fell 0.1 percentage points to 2.1%.

      The NFIB reported that its index of small business optimism fell 2.8 points to 99.7 in July. In June, the index had bounced back to its highest level since October. Six of the 10 components of the index declined. Ongoing hiring challenges and supply-chain disruptions continue to dampen recovery in sales and activity. An historic share of small businesses view current inventory stocks as “too low”.

      Consumer prices increased 0.5% in July after rising 0.9% in June. Although the pace moderated, it is still rising at an annualized rate of 5.7%. Prices for all items less food and energy (or core-CPI) rose 0.3% in July after increasing 0.9% in June. Along with shelter and new vehicles, prices for recreation, for medical care, and for personal care increased in July. Prices for used cars also increased in July, but the 0.2% advance was much smaller than in recent months. Over the last 12 months, headline consumer prices increased 5.4% Y/Y while core prices were up 4.3% Y/Y.


      Producer prices rose 1.0% in July and are rising at an elevated level after rising 1.0% in June and 0.8% in May. Three-quarters of the rise can be traced to cost pressures in services. Among goods, prices for tobacco products increased sharply and prices for gasoline; diesel fuel; gas fuels; consumer, institutional, and commercial plastic products; and eggs also moved higher. Headline producer prices were up 7.8% Y/Y, the highest level since 2010. Inflationary pressures remain strong at this stage of the supply chain.

      Import prices rose 0.3% in July following a 1.1% advance in June and a 1.3% advance in May. Prices for U.S. imports have risen 10.2% Y/Y with both fuel and nonfuel prices rising. U.S. export prices rose 17.2% Y/Y with agricultural export prices having risen 29.2% Y/Y.



      The rig count rose by two to 490 rigs during the week ending 6 August. The rise of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, however, appears to be undermining oil demand projections. As a result, oil prices trended lower this past week.


      For the business of chemistry, the indicators still bring to mind a green banner for basic and specialty chemicals.

      Chemical Table

      According to data released by the Association of American Railroads, chemical railcar loadings, the best ‘real time’ indicator of chemical industry activity, rose by 2.1% to 33,678 railcars during the week ending 7 August (week 31). Loadings were up 6.3% Y/Y and up 6.0% YTD/YTD. The 13-week moving average, which is used to smooth out volatility, was up 13.1%.

      Chemical Trade

      U.S. chemical exports slipped in June after a strong showing in May. June chemical exports were $13.0 billion which was down 3% from $13.5 billion in May. Compared to May, exports were down in all categories except inorganics, plastic resins, and synthetic fibers. Chemical exports over the first half of 2021 were up 18% compared to the same period in 2020. This growth has been driven by petrochemicals exports, which represent nearly 60% of U.S. chemical exports. U.S. chemical imports were up 7% in June to $11.1 billion and up 21% YTD/YTD. Compared to May, imports were up in all categories except agricultural chemicals in June. Nearly half of chemical imports recorded so far this year (through June) are petrochemicals. The monthly trade surplus in chemicals fell to $2.0 billion in June from $3.2 billion in May. The U.S. posted a $1.5 billion surplus in plastic resins trade in June. The U.S. chemicals trade surplus, driven by $9.3 billion in net exports of plastic resins was $15.0 billion in the first half of 2021.

      Chemical Trade Table

      Chemical producer prices rose for a 14th consecutive month in July, up by 1.4%. There were gains across all categories, with the largest increases in inorganic chemicals, synthetic rubber, coatings, and agricultural chemicals. Compared to a year ago, chemical prices were up 21.6% Y/Y. 

      Chemical import prices rose 1.1% in July and were up 20.6% Y/Y. The gain in import prices in July was the 14th consecutive monthly gain, however, advances have moderated since May.

      For More Information

      ACC members can access additional data, economic analyses, presentations, outlooks, and weekly economic updates through MemberExchange.

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      Every effort has been made in the preparation of this weekly report to provide the best available information and analysis. However, neither the American Chemistry Council, nor any of its employees, agents or other assigns makes any warranty, expressed or implied, or assumes any liability or responsibility for any use, or the results of such use, of any information or data disclosed in this material.

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      Note On the Color Codes

      The banner colors represent observations about the current conditions in the overall economy and the business chemistry. For the overall economy we keep a running tab of 20 indicators. The banner color for the macroeconomic section is determined as follows:

      Green – 13 or more positives
      Yellow – between 8 and 12 positives
      Red – 7 or fewer positives

      For the chemical industry there are fewer indicators available. As a result we rely upon judgment whether production in the industry (defined as chemicals excluding pharmaceuticals) has increased or decreased three consecutive months.

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