August IPEX declines on falling global chemical prices

07 August 2012 17:19  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--The ICIS Petrochemical Index (IPEX) has declined for the fourth consecutive month, with the August index falling to 299.82, its lowest value since December 2010.

This represents a 0.2% weakening of the IPEX from its revised* July figure of 300.56, mainly on falling global chemical prices, primarily in Europe and the US.

The European component of the August index declined the most of all three regions, falling by 11.9% in dollar terms, after a 2.3% strengthening of the dollar against the euro was accounted for. However, the European sub-index was the highest among the three regions, standing at 316.89, followed by Asia which rose by 6.7% to 305.13, then the US with a 2.5% fall to 276.32.

All European chemical prices decreased in dollar terms in July. The greatest price decline was seen in butadiene (BD) prices, by 20.8%, and the smallest price decline was seen in methanol, by 2.3% solely due to the strengthening of the dollar.

European market demand for BD in July was poor. In addition, the European styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) market was fairly quiet, and consumption levels were low. There were also production constraints due to maintenance at some Belgian crackers.

The Asian sub-index was the only one to increase, as more than two-thirds of chemical products in the Asian IPEX basket had price increases. The greatest price hike was seen in BD, by around 24%. The only price drops were seen in methanol and paraxylene (PX), by 4.5% and 6.4% respectively.

The Asian BD price soared in July, mainly because of restocking, despite persistent poor market demand. In China, there was growing buying interest due to limited spot material availability, as there were some outages at their crackers. Asian BD price hikes were also triggered by supply disruptions following other major cracker outages in Taiwan and Thailand.

The July average Asian PX price weakened, in response to lower crude futures, continued poor demand and lower downstream chemical prices. Globally, July PX prices dropped in dollar terms in all three regions, with the greatest price drop seen in Europe, by 10.8%.

The falling US component of the index was mainly on a 16% drop in the BD price. A 7.7% rise in the ethylene price held back the index decline. 50% of the chemical products in the US index basket experienced price drops.

The downtrend in the US BD price was mainly driven by lower naphtha costs, the weaker dollar and sluggish market conditions. Increased US ethylene prices were due to several outages and maintenances carried out in several major US crackers.

Published at the beginning of each month, the IPEX provides an independent indicator of average change in world petrochemical prices.

Dating back to January 1993, historical ICIS prices for a basket of 12 essential petrochemical products in the US, western Europe and northeast Asian markets have been weighted by regional nameplate capacity to generate a monthly index value.

The IPEX product basket comprises ethylene, propylene, benzene, toluene, PX, styrene, methanol, BD, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP) and polystyrene (PS).

August IPEX

*The July IPEX has been revised from 301.93 to 300.56, following settlement of the June US ethylene, styrene and PVC and Asian styrene contract prices. This month’s index is also subject to revision once the July US styrene contract price settles.

The revised historical IPEX data is available from ICIS on request
For a full methodology of the revised IPEX, click here

Author: Alexandra Sukanegara

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ICIS Global Petrochemical Index (IPEX)
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