Price and market trends: January IPEX rises 1.5% on aromatics

17 January 2013 19:50  [Source: ICB]

Europe leads gains while benzene and styrene prices rise on the continent as well as in Asia

Global chemical prices rose by approximately 1.5% in December 2012 compared with the previous month, boosted by strong price increases for aromatics, according to the January ICIS Petrochemical Index (IPEX).

The January IPEX, which tracks changes in global prices in dollar terms for a basket of 12 petrochemical products, reached 328.68, from a revised December figure of 323.86*.

Aromatics prices rose by more than 3%, with the European sub-index up 4.2% after taking account of a 2% weakening of the dollar. The Asian sub-index was up by 3.6% while the US sub-index was 1.2% higher. Growth was driven mainly by price increases for benzene and styrene in Europe and Asia and for toluene in the US and Asia.

Benzene supplies have been tight in Europe throughout 2012, as cracker operators have adopted lighter feedstocks that provide lower yields of pyrolysis gasoline (pygas), the key feedstock for benzene production.

In Asia, a downturn in the Chinese steel industry since 2008 has also led to reduced output of ­benzene-rich waste stream from coke output.

The IPEX polymers index rose by 1.8% across the three regions, with the strongest growth in Asia, particularly for polystyrene (PS), polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyethylene (PE).

For olefins, prices were relatively unchanged in December, as higher prices in Europe offset decreases in Asia and, to a lesser extent, the US.

Across product groups, Asia was the main contributor to the rise in the January IPEX with 2.1% growth. European prices rose by 1.7%, while US prices were relatively unchanged.

Published at the beginning of each month, the IPEX provides an independent indicator of average change in world petrochemical prices. The IPEX product ­basket comprises ethylene, propylene, benzene, toluene, paraxylene (PX), styrene, methanol, butadiene, PVC, PE, polypropylene (PP) and PS.

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 December IPEX has been revised from 323.39 to 323.86 following settlement of the November pricing contracts for ethylene, styrene and PVC in the US and for styrene in Asia. This month's index is also subject to revision once the December contract has settled for styrene in the US. The revised historical IPEX data is available from ICIS on request.

By: Anna Jagger
+44 20 8652 3214

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