Chemical market trends: Markets alive with March contract talks

05 March 2012 00:00  [Source: ICB]

The March propylene contract has been agreed up €90/tonne in Europe at €1,195/tonne (see page 18). According to the manufacturer involved in the discussions, the increase was needed because of cracker margins, which had been eroded by rising naphtha costs upstream. The propylene market has also tightened following a series of production problems, which saw polymer grade spot values climb above the contract in February. Buyers deemed the hike a fair compromise, given the three-digit hike targeted by producers.

Butadiene (BD) spot numbers in Asia saw a second successive week of declines, ending the uptrend of the last three months. BD fell by 4% within a fortnight to around $3,800/tonne CFR Northeast (NE) Asia on February 24. Prices had peaked at $3,900-4,000/tonne CFR NE Asia on February 10. Nevertheless, the current price is still double that of last November.

A bleak outlook for derivatives is cited as the main driver for paraxylene (PX) end-users launching a counter bid to producers' March Asian Contract Price (ACP). The counterbid is at least $140/tonne lower than the ACP, at $1,550-1,580/tonne. Producer JX Nippon Oil & Energy had nominated $1,690/tonne CFR Asia, with Idemitsu Kosan pushing for $1,740/tonne. Meanwhile, South Korea's S-Oil nominated $1,690/tonne, while US-based ExxonMobil wanted $1,700/tonne.

In the US, methanol contracts for March have rolled over at 133-134 cents/gal. Canada's Methanex posted 134 cents/gal, while Southern Chemical Corp. announced 133 cents/gal.

Asian phenol prices are expected to see further gains because of stretched availability with a shortage of deep-sea cargoes, and cost pressures. Spot numbers rose by $25-40/tonne week on week to $1,525-1,560/tonne CFR China on February 24.

By: Andy Brice
+44 20 8652 3214

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