FocusHigh feedstocks, soft demand pushing US MMA to rollover

06 September 2012 19:46  [Source: ICIS news]

By John Dietrich

HOUSTON (ICIS)--With a slight increase in feedstock costs being balanced by slowly softening demand, sources said on Thursday that they expect September contract prices for US methyl methacrylate (MMA) will roll over.

One large producer confirmed it will seek a rollover on most of its September contracts, keeping prices within the ICIS assessed range of $1.10-1.15/lb ($2,425-2,535/tonne, €1,916-2,003/tonne) FD railcar (free delivered via railcar).

“With the recent hurricane activity and demand remaining stable in some sectors and starting to slip in others, it’s not worth pushing,” the producer said. “But all bets are off next month depending on feedstocks.”

Sources said that only one major MMA plant -- Evonik’s 150,000 tonne/year Fortier facility in Louisiana – was affected by Hurricane Isaac, but that it was up and running by 4 September.

On the feedstock side, US barge acetone contract prices have increased by 0.5 cents/lb in each of the past two months, while slight gains have also been seen in the ammonia and methanol markets.

“If there’s any bias for MMA prices, it would be up slightly because of feedstock costs,” an MMA buyer said.

August contract prices were assessed at a fall of 1-2 cents/lb from July, although rollovers were prominent.

Some US MMA market players said they are seeing material as low as 95 cents/lb, although no buyers have said they can get their hands on the product.

“We’ve heard that rumour, but we haven’t been able to find the material,” a buyer said.

The buyer speculated that the cheap material might not be on-spec for most US needs, while a producer said it might be a competitor’s leftover product after meeting its lower-than-expected internal consumption needs.

However, the large US producer said the material is not reflective of the contract market and is unlikely to be a factor in contract negotiations.

“We saw the same rumour a year ago, and it didn’t amount to anything,” the producer said. “Maybe someone is just trying to shed inventory, or it’s off-spec or whatever, but there’s not much of it and it won’t be a factor in discussions.”

Demand in the downstream coatings sector has started to slide, sources said, citing mostly seasonal factors.

Although some are optimistic a second wave of strong demand could come now that temperatures have returned to more favourable painting conditions, most buyers disputed this, saying any new material needed is likely in inventory rather than needing to be produced.

Major US MMA producers include Dow Chemical, Evonik and Lucite.

($1 = €0.79)

By: John Dietrich

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