US June cumene prices settle at 14% drop on cheaper propylene

13 June 2012 20:35  [Source: ICIS news]

US June cumene prices settle at 14% dropHOUSTON (ICIS)--US June cumene contract prices fell 14% from May levels, sources said on Wednesday.

Buyers and sellers said June prices were within the range of 53-55 cents/lb ($1,168-1,213/tonne, €934-970/tonne) FOB (free on board).

May prices were assessed by ICIS at 62-64 cents/lb FOB.

A steep drop in spot prices for feedstock refinery-grade propylene (RGP) was the biggest factor, sources said.

“Propylene doesn’t help me when it falls so much,” a producer said. “The [cumene] market is definitely soft.”

US spot prices for RGP have sunk by 24% in the past four weeks.

However, the bigger cumene feedstock, benzene, has seen prices remain consistently high, which source say is hurting demand for cumene and its downstream products phenol and acetone.

“You can’t make any spot phenol deals work because benzene is too high,” a trader said. “You lose money on phenol and acetone.”

This is keeping phenol-acetone plant operating rates low, which is cutting into cumene demand and also pushing prices lower.

“Spot interest is not what it was four months ago and contract premiums are slipping as well,” the producer said.

Major US cumene producers include CITGO, Flint Hills Resources, Georgia Gulf, Marathon, Shell Chemical and Sunoco.

($1 = €0.80)

Author: John Detrich

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