Asian petchem stocks gain on signs of easing economic stress

08 May 2009 10:37  [Source: ICIS news]

SINGAPORE (ICIS news)--Asian petrochemical stocks were up on Friday, tracking the extended gains in regional markets on growing optimism that severe distress in the global economy was finally ebbing.

The positive sentiment also swept through the commodities market, allowing crude futures to extend their gains from Thursday, hovering above $57/bbl (€43/bbl).

“Data from around the world has been encouraging, showing some signs of bottoming out in exports and industrial production,” said David Cohen, chief economist at research firm Action Economics.

Most petrochemical companies reported dismal earnings in the first quarter as the slump in global demand from the fourth quarter continued. Many did not expect conditions to improve significantly in the coming months.

However, recent readings on industrial production in countries such as China had been positive, “suggesting maybe we are past the worst of the contraction”, said Cohen.

At the close of trading on Friday, Japanese petrochemical majors gained, with Asahi Kasei up 1.91%, Mitsui Chemicals 2.74% higher and Mitsubishi Chemical rising 1.78%.

The Nikkei 225 index rose 0.5% to close at a six-month high of 9,432.83.

China’s state-owned refiners Sinopec and PetroChina gained 1.12% and 4.14% respectively in Hong Kong, as the benchmark Hang Seng index closed 1.0% higher at 17,389.87.

South Korea’s petrochemical majors also advanced, with SK Energy up 0.93% and Kumho Petrochem adding 1.74% as the KOSPI composite index increased by 0.79% to close at 1,412.13.

Much of the gain in crude prices was being driven by improved expectation with little support in actual demand, said Cohen.

“Sentiment can get disappointed as well so maybe we will see some retreat again [in crude oil, stocks]. But for the moment, it [markets] does reflect heightened optimism that maybe things will start to pick up before the end of the year,” said Cohen.

($1 = €0.75)

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By: Pearl Bantillo
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