FocusWeak nylon sector to temper Asia caprolactam price gains

03 May 2012 07:00  [Source: ICIS news]

By Junie Lin

Weak nylon sector to temper Asia caprolactam price gainsBRISBANE (ICIS)--A weakness in nylon chips (polyamide) sector may temper efforts by producers and traders of feedstock caprolactam to hike prices, market players said on Thursday.

Downstream nylon chips facilities in northeast Asia are operating at reduced rates because of weak nylon sales.

Capro is an intermediate primarily used in the production of nylon 6 (or polyamide 6) fibres, plastics and other polymeric materials.

Downstream semi-dull nylon (polyamide) chip prices in Asia fell by $50/tonne (€38/tonne) at the low end of the range to $2,900-3,000/tonne CFR (cost and freight) China in the week ended 1 May, according to ICIS.

“We can barely sell chips at $2,900/tonne,” a major northeast Asian nylon chips maker said.

Taiwanese nylon chips manufacturers are running their plants at around 65% on average, while production rates at Chinese facilities averaged around 75%, industry sources said.

Capro prices, on the other hand, snapped three consecutive weeks of declines to post a $50/tonne gain to $2,550-2,580/tonne CFR (cost and freight) northeast (NE) Asia in the week ended 2 May, according to ICIS.

Prices recovered after falling by as much as $220/tonne or 7% over three weeks, the data showed.

“This was partly because of restocking activities ahead of the Labour Day holiday on 29 April-1 May in China,” said a Chinese trader.

End-users, which were sidelined by falling prices in the past weeks, are now entering the market to secure some cargoes, traders said.

Against this backdrop, capro producers are keen to raise prices as the current spot and contract prices are reaching production costs, particularly the prices of feedstock benzene.

“The spread between capro and benzene prices [has to be] around $1,500/tonne to maintain margins,” said a northeast Asian capro producer.

The current capro-benzene spread is below the threshold at $1,350-1,365/tonne, with benzene prices in Asia trading at 1,200-1,215/tonne FOB (free on board) Korea on Thursday.

But China is currently saddled with a glut of caprolactam supply given huge volumes imported in March, amid the poor market conditions in the downstream nylon chips sector and a slowdown in the country’s pace of economic expansion.

The country’s March capro imports remained high at 83,825 tonnes, up 27% year on year, according to China Customs.

($1 = €0.76)

Read John Richardson and Malini Hariharan’s blog – Asian Chemical Connections

By: Junie Lin

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