May benzene contracts projected flat-to-higher in US

22 April 2010 20:03  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--US benzene market participants on Thursday predicted a steady or slightly higher May contract, which is expected to settle late next week.

Sluggish benzene spot activity in the US Gulf has recently accompanied a lack of sizable import/export business and oscillating crude oil values.

“Benzene seems very balanced, hence the static market,” a trader said.

Over the past week, spot benzene has drifted between $3.43-3.55/gal FOB (free on board) US Gulf, within a cent or two of the $3.48/gal April benchmark.

“Sellers have backed off, buyers have backed off... this may be a pretty boring contract settlement,” a US-based benzene consumer said.

Then again, said others, if the WTI crude market were to stage a rush on the heels of recent sell-offs, a spike in energy values could prompt higher benzene ideas for May.

“Benzene has a chance of going up 3-5 cents/gal for May, depending on crude oil,” a downstream styrenics buyer said. “Next week will be the defining period.”

Another benzene buyer said it was too early to predict the May contract, citing past contract settlement periods when late-month energy fluctuations resulted in unexpected benzene movements.

“If benzene were settling today, there is a good chance it would be within a couple cents of April [contract prices],” the buyer said.

US benzene contract prices are typically settled in the last few days of the month prior to the contract. Major US benzene producers include BP Chemical, ExxonMobil, Flint Hills Resources, LyondellBasell, Shell and Total.

($1 = €0.75)

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By: Landon Feller
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