03 April 2012 13:15 [Source: ICIS news]
LONDON (ICIS)--The ICIS petrochemical index (IPEX) has improved to 359.21 in April, to its highest since September 2011, which represents a 2.9% firming of the IPEX from its revised* March figure of 349.06.
US and Europe have driven the IPEX increases, both strengthening by around 5.7% in dollar terms, with the dollar remaining fairly flat against the euro over the period. In comparison, Asia showed a lacklustre 0.4% growth.
The polymer sub-index experienced the biggest increase, rising by 5.4%, followed by olefins with 4.4% and aromatics with just 1.0%.
The European chemicals market proved to be resilient despite the ongoing economic concerns. Of all component chemicals of the European IPEX basket, benzene was the only contract price to see a decrease in euro terms for March.
Butadiene (BD) led the price increases, soaring by 12.8%. Polymers and olefins also experienced strong price hikes, with polyethylene (PE) prices approaching previous record highs and the ethylene contract price achieving a new high.
The upward price movements are the result of several production problems at some ethylene plants also affecting downstream PE units, resulting in limited availability. This, coupled with firm demand, especially in eastern Europe, which is showing the strongest growth potential for plastics consumption in the region, is driving prices upward.
BD price increases in the US accelerated by almost 23% – reporting the highest price hike of the 36 chemicals that comprise the IPEX basket.
A number of US naphtha crackers have been off line for repairs and more crackers are expected to shut down for maintenance in the coming months. This is causing a tightening of BD supply at a time of increased demand, partly because of tyre sector expansions.
The Asian IPEX experienced almost no growth, as a fall in BD prices by around 8% mostly offset modest price increases for the majority of IPEX chemicals, with weak derivatives demand being the main reason for the fall.
Published at the beginning of each month, the IPEX provides an independent indicator of average change in world petrochemical prices.
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* The March IPEX has been revised from 348.75 to 349.06, following incorporation of the US February styrene contract price. This month’s index is also subject to revision once the US March ethylene, styrene and PVC and Asian styrene contracts settle.
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