Butadiene contract finally settles

23 April 2007 00:00  [Source: ICB]

European propylene (PP) numbers are unchanged from the week before at 870-895/tonne. No deals have been heard. Asian prices are $1,090-1,140/tonne CFR NE Asia, reflecting deals at $1,130-1,140/tonne CFR China for end-April/early-May delivery.

Second-quarter (Q2) butadiene (BD) contracts finally settled last week, a month later than expected. The 25/tonne hike to 895/tonne did not please some producers, who had been eyeing numbers above 900/tonne.

Meanwhile, the monthly BD settlement also rose by 25/tonne, taking numbers to 905/tonne for April. The spot range is pegged at $1,240-1,270/tonne, with no deals done. The market is said to be tightening because of turnarounds at
extraction units and crackers.

Asian spot prices rebounded to $980-1,000/tonne CFR NE Asia, up $20-30/tonne from the previous week, because of a large arbitrage shipment to the US. The arbitrage deal for a 5,000-tonne cargo to the US mopped up the surplus stocks in the region. Expectations of strengthened demand in Q2 from the derivative styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) and polybutadiene rubber (PBR) sectors also helped to lift market sentiment.

European benzene has been fluctuating throughout the week. Faltering crude added some downward pressure to the market, but tightness and firm prices in the US are supporting European values. By Thursday, numbers were at $1,150-1,160/tonne. Activity is fairly subdued, although numerous deals have been done.

Midweek Asian spot benzene for May big-berth loading was notionally $20/tonne firmer at $1,100-1,110/tonne FOB Korea. June offers at $1,120/tonne encountered bids at $1,090-1,095/tonne, with no deals heard.

High crude has pushed toluene prices up in Europe to around  $880-900/tonne. A few trades have been heard done. In Asia, values are at $875-885/tonne FOB Korea. June prices are quoted in a $860-880/tonne range, with deals done at
this level.Europe’s mixed xylene market is still extremely subdued, with no deals done.
Values are at $900-930/tonne. In Asia, numbers are expected to edge up on strong paraxylene (PX) and purified terephthalic acid (PTA) fundamentals. The range is nominal at $930-940/tonne FOB Korea.

The PX market is fairly quiet, with only a smattering of deals reported, some of which are unconfirmed. The $1,165-1,185/tonne range is up on last week. In Asia, prices climbed to $1,210-1,220/tonne CFR Taiwan. Deals have been done at $1,190/tonne CFR Taiwan and $1,220/tonne CFR China.

A dull week for European orthoxylene (OX) has seen no business. Prices are steady at $1,000-1,050/tonne. Asian OX was stable for the third week, with prices notional at $1,080-1,120/tonne CFR China Main Port. April styrene numbers are heard at $1,345-1,355/tonne in a tight European market. May values are around $5/tonne lower because of an influx of material soon to arrive from the US. Decent demand should absorb this additional material. Asian styrene buy-sell indications are at $1,280-1,290/tonne FOB Korea. Deals for June cargoes have been heard at these levels.

Methanol bids and offers in Europe dipped to 170-180/tonne early
last week, but prices soon edged up to 175-190/tonne because of firming US
numbers and planned maintenance outages worldwide. Sellers hope prices have now
bottomed out and will soon return above 200/tonne levels. A single trade was heard
at 188/tonne. Chinese prices plunged to $220-230/tonne CFR China, reflecting
bid-offer levels for Middle Eastern cargoes. Ample supply of domestic and Middle
Eastern product continues to exert downward pressure on prices, says a
Chinese producer.

Europe’s MTBE market is described as balanced and numbers are
reported at $755-775/tonne, down a little on gasoline. The factor to gasoline is
still 1.10. After only about two months of production, Ecofuel has decided to
switch its Ravenna, Italy, ethyl tertiary butyl ether (ETBE) plant back
to MTBE. Asian MTBE is at $680-700/tonne FOB Singapore. Activity remains
scant due to a wide buy-sell price gap, say traders.

Ammonia prices have come under pressure in Asia, partly due to the softening
tone in Yuzhny and also because of competitive sales by traders in Taiwan
and Korea. Middle East producers have revised their CFR contract prices
in India, with $7-10/tonne reductions on previous levels. Netbacks are
probably around $305-315/tonne Middle East.

Producers in the former Soviet Union are resorting to shutdowns to
balance supply/demand, and halt the price slide seen in recent weeks. But,
traders are rejecting offers of $270/tonne FOB for April and are reluctant to
take positions for May.

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European ethylene (C2) producers saw two more crackers closed for
planned maintenance last week. As these closures were expected, buyers seem
confident they would find product, despite the balanced to tight

Some say they had already covered their positions for April and May. Nevertheless, the volume of outages during this shutdown slate means that any unplanned issues may create difficulties sourcing material, according to some sources.

INEOS and Borealis are the latest to shut their crackers, closing their Grangemouth, UK, and Porvoo, Finland, units, respectively. INEOS’ facility is scheduled to be down for seven weeks, while the Borealis unit will shut for six as it expands its capacity by around  50,000-60,000tonnes/year.

Last week, news also emerged that one merchant buyer was importing 6,000 tonnes of C2 into Europe from Iran, spurred on by the price gap between the regions. Buying interest has been rising lately, particularly with European supply tightening because of the shutdowns.

The spot market meanwhile, is quiet, and no deals have been done. Prices are pegged at $1,220-1,270/tonne CIF NWE, although one buyer suggests this is too high on the sell side. Asian prices are notionally in a $900-930/tonne CFR northeast Asia range, with no fresh trades heard. Southeast Asian prices are holding steady
at $1,000-1,030/tonne CFR Indonesia for early May.


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