UpdateCrude spikes trigger sharp gains in Asia naphtha, aromatics

22 February 2011 10:10  [Source: ICIS news]

(updates prices, Libyan shipping source comment in paragraph 5)

By Pearl Bantillo

Men walking in front of a burnt out building in LibyaSINGAPORE (ICIS)--Naphtha and aromatics prices in Asia surged on Tuesday as global crude futures continued to spike on concerns of supply disruption amid the ongoing political unrest in Libya.

At 09:26 GMT, light sweet crude for March delivery was trading at $94.02/bbl, up $7.82/bbl from Friday's close since the US market was closed for a holiday on Monday, while BRENT was up $1.92/bbl at $107.66/bbl.

Crude futures were trading close to their highest levels seen since late 2008.

Asian naphtha prices surged to the highest levels since August 2008 at $926-928/tonne CFR (cost &freight) Japan on Tuesday, fired up by soaring global crude futures.

Traders in Asia earlier said prices were rising on reports that a Libyan port was closed. However, a shipping source in Libya told ICIS that ports were not closed though telecommunications were down and contact between agents and ships was through electronic mail.

No official confirmation about the situation of the ports was immediately available.

“The naphtha market is getting worried,” said a trader.

Values of aromatics products - benzene, toluene and styrene monomer - rallied on Tuesday, taking the cue from continued strength in crude prices.

Benzene shot up $40-45/tonne to a 31-month high of $1,235-1,240/tonne FOB (free on board) Korea. A deal was heard concluded at $1,235/tonne FOB Korea for April loading on Tuesday morning. 

Offers for April, meanwhile, hovered at $1,245/tonne FOB Korea in the afternoon, against bids at $1,235/tonne FOB Korea.

Styrene monomer (SM) prices tracked benzene's gains, rising by around $50/tonne on Tuesday morning, with a deal for an April parcel done at $1,515/tonne FOB (free on board) Korea, higher than the $1,465/tonne FOB Korea discussion levels on Monday.

By afternoon, SM offers hovered around $1,520/tonne FOB Korea against bids at $1,500-1,505/tonne FOB Korea, April parcels.

Toluene prices also increased by $25/tonne to $1,020-1,040/tonne FOB Korea on Tuesday morning. Offers for April loading at $1,040/tonne FOB Korea were countered by bids at $1,025-1,030/tonne FOB Korea. However by the evening prices were hovering around $1,015-1,035/tonne.

In other markets, however, trading was more subdued, with firmness in prices largely attributed to demand-supply fundamentals.

No price movement was seen in the paraxylene (PX) market as some traders were seen short-selling the market.

April PX cargoes were heard traded at $1,680-1,685/tonne CFR Taiwan and/or China Main Port (CMP) but this could not be immediately confirmed at the time of writing.

Expectations of higher prices had little to do with crude price movement but on tight supply of the material globally.

“Current demand-supply fundamentals are pointing towards prices climbing higher than $1,700/tonne CFR Taiwan and/or CMP,” said a trader based in northeast Asia.

In the olefins market, ethylene and propylene were also unchanged at midday trade, as buying sentiment has remained cautious despite crude's strong gains.

Ethylene remained at $1,330-1,350/tonne CFR NE (northeast) Asia on Tuesday. Selling targets for March-arrival cargoes in the high $1,300/tonne CFR NE Asia levels on expectations of tightening supply, but buyers were cautious. 

Spot propylene prices in Asia also did not budge on crude's strength. It was stable at $1,450-1,470/tonne CFR NE Asia.

“There is no appetite for propylene imports as the tanks in China are full with inventories as the customers procured the product before they left for the Lunar New Year holidays,” said a Chinese trader.

China's week-long Lunar New Year holiday fell on 2-8 February this year.

“The demand for propylene is sluggish as the downstream polypropylene (PP) plants in China are also operating at reduced rates as the migrant workers have yet to return to the factories from the Lunar New Year holidays,” the trader said.

Similarly, higher energy prices failed to lift sentiment in China’s polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) markets which were saddled with high inventories, Asian traders said.

Stocks had been high because local workers in the downstream plastics manufacturing sector were still away for the holidays and hence many plastics factories had still not resumed normal production rates, they said.

PE and PP were trading at similar levels from last week, although some local distributors had dropped their offer prices for some PE grades in their efforts to reduce stocks, Asian traders said.

Some traders were offering Middle East film grade linear low density (LLDPE) and high density PE (HDPE) at $1,410/tonne CFR China and $1,290-1,300/tonne CFR China for prompt arrival, down $10-20/tonne from last week, they said.

But the price cuts were not widespread, they added.

Traders’ sales of the benchmark PP injection and yarn grades were at $1,535/tonne CFR China for prompt lifting at the bonded warehouse, largely unchanged from last week, they added.

The sharp increase in crude values also failed to elicit price reactions in the vinyls and ethyl vinyl acetate markets.

James Dennis, Felicia Loo, Helen Yan, Chow Bee Lin, Bohan Loh, Mahua Chakravarty, Clive Ong, Helen Lee, Feliana Widjaja and Nurluqman Suratman contributed to this article

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


By: Pearl Bantillo
+65 6780 4359



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