FocusAsian MMA prices to fall on weak downstream demand

09 July 2012 08:35  [Source: ICIS news]

BRISBANE (ICIS)--Asian methyl methacrylate (MMA) prices are expected to weaken further in view of weak downstream demand, said market sources on Monday.

Asian MMA prices for cargoes of more than 500 tonnes registered its third consecutive weekly fall, losing more than 5% or $110-160/tonne (€90-131/tonne) over the three weeks to $2,100-2,120/tonne CFR (cost & freight) SE (southeast) Asia in the week ended 6 July. The prices for cargoes of 20-300 tonnes fell by 8% or $150-230/tonne to $2,100-2,150/tonne CFR SE Asia during the same period, according to ICIS data.

Most sellers concluded around 70% of their July sales volumes during the week, but some said they are willing to accept lower prices to clear their inventories, as demand was weaker than they had expected.

 The current “buyer’s market” has made it unfavourable for sellers to push through their initial prices ideas as the inventories of downstream end-users are rising, market players said. Asian MMA prices may be under further downward pressure because of lower consumption rates and expected increased supply from the start-up of Asahi PTT Chemical’s 70,000 tonne/year plant in Thailand in the third quarter of this year.

MMA is polymerised to make homopolymers and copolymers, with the largest application being the casting, moulding or extrusion of polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) or modified polymers. Other key applications of MMA in Asia, includes cast sheets and emulsions.

The prices of general purpose (GP) polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) in Asia fell by $50-80/tonne week on week to $2,700-2,750/tonne CFR SE Asia in the week ended 5 July. GP PMMA prices on a CFR China basis decreased by $50-130/tonne week on week to $2,300-2,450/tonne in the same period.

 Most producers in Asia have lowered their PMMA prices ideas, but many producers outside of China said they are unable to compete with Chinese domestic GP PMMA producers who are cutting their prices to offload their inventories.

Demand is also likely to weaken in some parts of southeast Asia, such as Indonesia and Malaysia, because of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan that begins on 20 July.  

Cast sheet manufacturers in these countries are likely to reduce their August MMA buying requirements by up to 50% during that period, said sellers.

A major cast sheet manufacturer said it will be reducing its MMA offtake by 700-800 tonnes in August in anticipation of lower operating rates during the festive period.

Asian cast sheet sellers also said downstream buying sentiment has weakened because of tighter cash flow and that many of their buyers are delaying payments.

Asian MMA producers said they are now hoping that the rebound seen in energy prices and lower plant operating rates due to ongoing and upcoming shutdowns will help to keep MMA prices stable for August.  

However, this remains to be seen as 3,000-4,000 tonnes of deep-sea cargoes are on their way to Asia, lengthening the supply to the already weak Asia market, said market sources. This volume is almost equivalent to a month’s output for a producer with a nameplate capacity of around 50,000 tonnes/year.

($1 = €0.82)

By: Junie Lin

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