FocusOpinion divided for Asia June MMA prices - sources

24 May 2012 13:20  [Source: ICIS news]

SANYA, China (ICIS)--The Asian price outlook of June methyl methacrylate (MMA) is largely divided between producers and end users, market players said on Thursday.

Producers are eyeing a $50-100/tonne (€40-80/tonne) increment for June, citing potential MMA supply issues as the primary driver behind the June price hikes, despite facing crucial challenges in light of ongoing macroeconomic volatility.

Supply is likely to fall because of potential extended shutdowns for Thai MMA's No 1 90,000 tonne/year line at Map Ta Phut, Thailand, on the back of feedstock disruption; China’s Jilin Petrochemical’s month-long MMA shutdown; possible output cuts in Japan and the absence of new supply from Asahi PTT’s 70,000 tonnes/year MMA plant in Map Ta Phut, they added.

MMA prices of more than 500 tonnes were last assessed at $2,220-2,280/tonne CFR (cost & freight) SE (southeast) Asia in the week ended 18 May, while cargoes of 20-300 tonnes were assessed at $2,250-2,360/tonne CFR SE Asia.

Prices had increased since bottoming out in early February. Prices for cargoes of more than 500 tonnes rose by $125/tonne to $2,220-2,280/tonne CFR SE Asia from mid-February to mid-May. Cargoes of 20-300 tonnes showed a similar trend, surging by $240/tonne to $2,250-2,360/tonne CFR SE Asia during the same period.

In contrast, many others were questioning the sustainability of MMA prices at the current level, especially consumers and traders.

Many also have pointed to dismal consumer data as a harbinger of a weak global economic situation for the rest of 2012, dampening sentiment in the regional MMA market.

The Chinese domestic MMA market, the largest in Asia, was the first market to show signs of weakness in Asia, with prices already softening since early May.

Spot prices of MMA in east China were hovering around yuan (CNY) 16,200-16,500/tonne ($2,559-2,607/tonne) EXW (ex-works) on 24 May, CNY100/tonne lower compared to the previous day, according to Chemease, an ICIS service in China.

In southeast Asia, one downstream Asian cast sheet manufacturer said; "I got customers back out (cast sheet) orders, and I cannot see how MMA prices are able to go up at all."

MMA is used to produce polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) polymer, cast sheets and acrylic resins for coatings and emulsions.

One of the stronger markets is India, where the consumption for MMA is robust on the back of an increased demand for paints ahead of the Deepavali holiday season in October, market players said.

However, India MMA consumption is small compared with the rest of Asia and might have a limited impact to uplift MMA prices in Asia, they added.

The one-day event is being held in Sanya, Hainan, in China on 24 May.

($1 = €0.80, $1 = CNY6.33)

Additional reporting by Monica Cai

By: Junie Lin

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