FocusAsia soda ash caught in a continuous wide buy-sell gap

26 July 2012 08:06  [Source: ICIS news]

By Samuel Wong

The bottle glass industry is among the downstream sectors of soda ashSINGAPORE (ICIS)--Asia soda ash spot price discussions have been in a deadlock since early July on a wide buy-sell gap, with no significant improvement expected in the near-term, industry sources said on Thursday.

The prices of the dense 99% purity grade for the week ended 26 July were at $205-215/tonne (€168-176/tonne) FOB (free on board) China Main Port (CMP), $220-240/tonne CFR (cost & freight) northeast (NE) Asia, and $220-235/tonne CFR southeast (SE) Asia, according to ICIS data.

Comparing with the start of June this year, prices decreased by about $5-10/tonne from $210-225/tonne FOB CMP, $25-30/tonne decline from $250-265/tonne CFR NE Asia, and falling by $15/tonne from $235-250/tonne CFR SE Asia, according to ICIS data.

Majority of the buyers remained at the sidelines as they expect prices to decline in the near term, with producers unwilling to reduce their offers.

In addition, several buyers highlighted that inventory levels were healthy, with no rush to procure spot cargoes until mid-August.

A northeast Asia-based glass producer said buying indications for spot cargoes were capped at $200/tonne CFR NE Asia, but producers were heard not willing to offer at those levels.

The glass producer added that there is no hurry to purchase as inventory levels were strong and wanted to wait for the prices to fall in his favour.

However, a minority of producers have attempted to increase offers by about $5/tonne to $220/tonne FOB China, citing higher production and feedstock costs. But these offers were rejected by buyers.

Buying enquiries were very limited, as buyers are only looking to purchase cargoes in mid-August, according to some producers.

“Demand is very weak now, as a result of low buying interest and expectation of lower prices,” a producer said.

The lack of fresh development was attributed by the existing wide buy-sell gap, as sporadic discussions for Chinese products remained inconclusive, said several market sources.

Buyers are mainly adopting a “wait-and-see” stance since they have sufficient inventory levels, and they have no rush to buy in the near-term, a distributor said.

The dense-grade soda ash prices in the eastern and southern parts of China remained stable for a fourth straight week at yuan (CNY) 1,400-1,500/tonne DEL and at CNY1,500-1,550/tonne DEL, respectively, according to ICIS data.

Asia spot prices of soda ash in the same period a year earlier were at $280-310/tonne CFR NE Asia, $280-320/tonne CFR SE Asia, and $260-290/tonne FOB CMP, and started its steady decline in February this year, according to ICIS data

Trade activity is subdued now, on the back of an uncertain market condition, as the eurozone debt worries resurfaced, said another producer.

Moreover, the weak downstream petrochemical demand in China is further dampening market sentiment, resulting in buyers taking a cautious stance, he added.  

“It looks like the buy-sell gap will continue to exist until buying interest increases,” another producer said.

According to the latest data from China customs, China exported 170,503 tonnes of soda ash in June, up by 23.4% month on month and an increase of 57.6% compared with the same month a year earlier.

Soda ash is primarily used in glassmaking, the manufacture of other inorganic chemicals, detergents, flue gas desulphurisation, water treatment and in pulp and paper manufacturing.

($1 = €0.82)

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

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By: Samuel Wong

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