FocusEurope naphtha market likely to stay robust

07 February 2013 15:59  [Source: ICIS news]

By Jo Pitches

LONDON (ICIS)--The recent strength and tight conditions in the European naphtha market are likely to persist for at least the next month or so, participants said on Thursday.

Several sources agreed that the market has tightened from last week. With outbound arbitrages open and demand from the gasoline sector healthy, availabilty has been significantly reduced.

“Naphtha is super tight in the prompt [market],” a trader said. “[Arbs are open to the] east and west, gasoline arb is open to the States, although they have a lot of material now to chew through.”

Significant volumes of gasoline have already headed west on the open arbitrage.

“[These conditions should last] for the next 4-6 weeks,” the source added, “Then it [the naphtha market] looks weaker right now. But who knows by then.”

A second trader agreed: “Gasoline is still strong – gas/nap [the gasoline/naphtha price spread] is still wide and going wider evey month, going into the gasoline season, so that part will keep pulling nap.”

On Thursday morning gasoline was priced $95/tonne over naphtha for February, and $113/tonne for March. Such a wide spread provides a clear incentive to purchase naphtha for gasoline blending.

“We still see a strong nap [market] for at least a month,” the source continued. Can't see what could make the market longer.”

A third trader said: “Yes it is [tighter]. The Feb-March [naphtha] price spread is at $19/tonne, and the March/April [spread is] at $17.25/tonne. Last night the cash diff (Feb fiz [price for physical material] against Feb swaps) closed at +$13/tonne, and the Feb fiz [against] March swaps at +$31/tonne.”

“The arb is still very much open in the east,” the source continued.

On Thursday morning, the east-west price spread stood at $14/tonne.

However, this source was not convinced the European market strength will last.

“Now with propane collapsing and gasoline high in stocks, it could quickly change,” the  trader added. “Propane is in the toilet, pro/nap [the propane-naphtha price spread] for Feb is at -$135/tonne, and pro/nap for March is at -$140/tonne.”

With rival feedstock propane priced so far below naphtha, petrochemical buyers are likely to opt for the former wherever possible.

However, other participants argue that these factors have already been accounted for.

“The propane collapse is spectacular today,” the first trader said. “It won’t drag nap too much, as it was already ín the pool.”

The second trader added: “Pro-nap [the propane-naphtha spread] is collapsing, but propane was already priced into nap, so that does not change much the picture.”

By: Jo Pitches
+44 208 652 3214

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