ERNEST SCHEYDERNEW YORK (AP) ¿ The specialty chemical sector represents an attractive investment as the global economy slowly begins to rebound, an analyst said Friday. Goldman Sachs analyst Robert Koort boosted his rating on the specialty chemicals market to "Attractive" from "Neutral," citing growing demand for chemicals and thawing credit conditions. "We have increased confidence that the global economy is approaching bottom and green shoots of a cyclical rebound are emerging," he said in a note to analysts. Koort added Valspar Corp. to the Americas Conviction Buy list, a grouping of preferred stocks, and named Air Products & Chemicals Inc., Nalco Holding Co. and Albemarle Corp. as "top picks." Shares of Valspar jumped 79 cents, or 3.5 percent, to $23.57 in afternoon trading after the upgrade. Meanwhile, shares of Air Products rose 74 cents to $62.31, shares of Nalco rose 55 cents, or 3.4 percent, to $16.61, and shares of Albemarle rose 12 cents to $26.31. Specialty chemicals ¿ unlike basic chemicals ¿ are generally seen as higher-margin products with more niche applications. They're used in glues, food flavorings and paper additives, as opposed to basic chemicals, which tend to be made in large batches for plastics or polyester projects.
But specialty chemicals also go into housing and electronic applications, two areas that have been battered heavily over the past year. The entire economy is likely near a bottom and will bounce back soon, Koort said. He did downgraded Ecolab to "Neutral" from "Buy," saying other specialty chemical makers offer a better investment. "As signs of cyclical recovery are emerging and investors favor a much stronger cyclical tilt, we expect several other specialty chemical names in our coverage universe to outperform in the next several quarters," Koort said. Shares of Ecolab fell 86 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $36.14 in afternoon trading.