FocusTight supply lends firm price support to select Asia petchems

28 May 2010 06:10  [Source: ICIS news]

By Pearl Bantillo

SINGAPORE (ICIS news)--Select petrochemical products managed to hold up against the strong tide of price declines in recent weeks, with values firmly supported by tight supply and stable demand, industry sources said on Friday.

Maintenance turnarounds across production plants in the second quarter allowed products such as acrylates, caustic soda, titanium dioxide (TiO2), methanol, methyl metacrylate (MMA) and polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) to buck the downtrend in more upstream products, data from ICIS pricing showed.

Concerns about global economic recovery in the wake of mounting debt problems in Europe sent crude prices tumbling below $70/bbl this week, which precipitated the sharp declines in values of petrochemicals - from olefins, to aromatics, down to polyolefins.

But further down the petrochemical chain, prices were buoyed by demand-supply fundamentals rather than sentiment, and were keeping in line with better consumption, industry sources said.

In some products, the price uptrend just came to a halt this week as buying activities typically slow at the end of each month.

For general purpose grade PMMA, prices were stable at $2,550-2,650/tonne (€2,066-2,147/tonne) CFR SE Asia and $2,500-2,540/tonne CFR China on 27 May, after steadily rising since 29 April, based on ICIS pricing data.

Prevailing shortages in feedstock methyl methylacrylate (MMA) amid growing demand, particularly from applications in flat-screen televisions (TVs) were supporting the PMMA prices, market sources said.

PMMA supply is currently too short to cover surging demand – a condition conducive to further price spikes, they said.

Sumitomo Chemicals Singapore announced a $300/tonne hike in PMMA prices on Thursday to $2,800/tonne CIF (cost, insurance and freight) SE (southeast) Asia, said a company source.

Asia paraffin wax prices had been inching up by $10/tonne nearly each week since the start of the year. Prices for benchmark grade 58/60C solid wax were assessed at $1,670-1,690/tonne FOB CMP this week due to scarce availability of material for exports as Chinese wax facilities were running at just half their capacity, market sources said.

Prices may soon hit record highs as the strained supply situation persisted due to feedstock shortage, they added.

Meanwhile, adipic acid prices remained at their record-high levels of  $2,650-2750/tonne CFR NR Asia for the sixth consecutive week on Wednesday.

“This is ridiculous, I have never seen prices so high in my life,” said a Taiwanese buyer. “It makes no sense when benzene is sub $1,000/tonne FOB Korea levels and conversion costs are around $900/tonne,” said another buyer.

Meanwhile, spot prices of acrylates were stable in Asia, as the US and European markets actively compete for scarce regional supply.

Glacial acrylic acid (GAA) prices were assessed stable at $2,440-2,500/tonne (€1,981-2,029/tonne) CIF (cost, insurance and freight) China, while butyl acrylate (BA) remained at $2,700-2,750/tonne CIF China and 2 ethyl hexanol-acrylate (2EH-A) unchanged at $2,900-3,080/tonne CIF China on 26 May, based on data from ICIS pricing.

Butaniedol prices had also been firm despite the massive falls in energy prices that sent some petrochemical product prices falling. Since early May, spot prices for bulk material have soared by $150/tonne to $2,250-2,350/tonne CFR China while drummed material rose by $100/tonne to $2,450-2,550/tonne CFR China on 25 May, according to ICIS pricing.

Meanwhile, the outlook for caustic soda remained bullish after having bucked the downtrend to hit a 10-month high of $220-260/tonne (€176-208/tonne) FOB (free on board) NE (northeast) Asia on 21 May.

Firm demand from downstream sectors such as alumina, pulp & paper and textile, as well as low chlorine prices were supporting the prices, industry sources said.

Ethanol prices, meanwhile, held their ground at $720-760/tonne CFR NE Asia this week, as increased demand for prompt cargoes could not be met due to lower crop harvest in Brazil – the world’s biggest ethanol producer.

Additional reporting by Heng Hui, Cheong Su Yeen, Junie Lin and Aaron Cheong

($1 = €0.81)

To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect
Read John Richardson and Malini Hariharan’s blog – Asian Chemical Connections


By: Pearl Bantillo
+65 6780 4359



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