US natgas-based chem producers maintain export advantage - Fed

12 January 2011 20:15  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--North American producers of natural gas-based resins and plastics continued to enjoy significant advantages in export markets during November and December, the US Federal Reserve (Fed) said on Wednesday.

In its periodic “Beige Book” report on recent economic performance across the country, the Fed noted that petrochemical producers were seeing strong domestic and export demand, except for materials related to construction.

The analysis was given by the Fed’s Dallas-centred 11th district, which includes Texas, New Mexico and a part of Louisiana and is home to much of the nation’s petrochemical and refining capacity.

Based on rising demand, district respondents said prices for most petrochemical products had continued to rise since the Fed’s prior report.

In the upstream oil market, the Fed cited demand for oil products as continuing to improve, even against normal seasonal trends.

“Refinery utilisation rates moved up to the highest December levels since 2007,” the Fed said. “Margins held steady, despite the surge in the price of crude oil.

“Suppliers reported that refiners’ confidence has improved,” the report added.

The price of crude oil increased about $10/bbl during the reporting period, the Fed said, based on continued strength from Asia, better demand in the US and a weaker dollar.

Moreover, retail prices for gasoline and diesel rose alongside crude.

However, natural gas values were choppy amid weak demand and large inventories, the Fed said.

The Fed described the 11th district economy as expanding moderately over the past six weeks, citing the energy sector as a “source of strength”.

Overall, the Beige Book said reports from its 12 districts indicated that economic activity continued to expand, with conditions in the manufacturing, retail and non-financial services sectors generally better than in financial services or real estate.

In fact, residential real estate markets remained weak across all districts, according to the Fed.

The Fed is the US central bank.

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