SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) ¿ Albemarle Corp. said Tuesday that the focus in the specialty chemicals industry is moving toward growth as demand appears to be stabilizing.

CEO Mark Rohr, speaking during the Baton Rouge, La.-based company's midquarter update, said the first quarter of 2009 was the low point of economic activity for the industry, but broad economic reports over the last few months have generally been positive.

Rohr said demand appears to be stabilizing and select inventories are being replenished.

Albemarle said it expects sequential gains through this year with catalysts and fine chemicals. Rohr said the company expects sequential gains this quarter with polymers, but the company remains cautions that customers might reduce fourth-quarter volumes in anticipation of weak holiday season demand.

"Beyond 2009, increased demand and better utilization rates will all help drive improvements in profitability margins in all segments," Rohr said.

Deutsche Bank analyst David Begleiter maintained his hold on the stock with a $35 price target.

Shares closed at $33.35 on Tuesday.

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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