Cold start to spring hampers Europe acrylates demand

19 March 2013 18:40  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--Acrylates sellers in Europe said on Tuesday that it is not only the state of the economy that is slowing demand, but also the cold spring weather.

“It's not yet the time for a demand pick-up because of the bad weather,” one acrylic acid (AA) producer said. “The customers are ordering, we have had a good month in March, but it's not the peak and the season hasn't started yet.”

Demand for paints and coatings usually picks up in March as players along the supply chain prepare for the peak coatings season, which typically runs from April through until the autumn.

Another seller said: “Everything is quiet. The weather is, of course, remaining cold, which doesn't allow the building industry to start, and Easter is coming at a bad time in the month. Some companies will close in Easter for around a week so people are hesitant to buy material. We can only expect and hope that in the course of next week that people will start ordering for April.”

Some countries will have public holidays on 29 March and 1 April in recognition of Easter.

Buying interest for super absorbent polymer (SAP) is steady, and offtake from the hygiene sector is healthy, as is demand from the adhesives sector, AA sources said. However, EU construction output is down and fewer building projects are taking place amid poor macroeconomic conditions.

Demand is steady to slightly firm, with most sources across the acrylates complex agreeing that it is not as healthy as it usually is at this time of year.

“Demand in March is about 25% lower than normal, and in a weak market that is seriously low. Plus, with the weather, lots of people are struggling to get their product moving,” the second seller said.

Buyers and sellers of acrylate esters and methyl methacrylate (MMA) said that end-user demand is not picking up as it should yet, partly because the cold and icy weather in Europe is slowing building projects. Many parts of Europe have seen temperatures plummet in March, and snowy conditions have further delayed building plans, sources said. The outlook for April remains unclear as forecasts are clouded by uncertainty stemming from the eurozone debt crisis.

“For April, I don't know what to expect, I wouldn't be surprised if demand doesn't pick up that much,” a producer said. “Sad but true.”

Players nevertheless hope that warmer weather during spring in Europe, as well as a few public holidays, will boost demand as end-users undertake home improvement projects.

“It's difficult to predict April. We will see what the construction industry will show us,” another producer said. “It’s quite stable for now, more or less the same level of demand as 2012.”

“Like the weather, MMA is gray and windy with hopes for better weather soon,” a seller said. “It will be interesting to see how things develop in April because the coatings season is due to start. The bad weather doesn’t help to make any sort of clear assessment of where we are. Between the restocking of January and bad weather of March, where is the actual level of demand?”

“There might be a pick up in March, but I have my doubts,” another acrylates seller said. “If it doesn't happen in March, then it will happen in April. And if it doesn't then, we have a disaster.”

Nearly all MMA is polymerised to make homopolymers and copolymers, with the largest application being the casting, moulding or extrusion of PMMA or modified polymers. PMMA is a transparent thermoplastic, often used as a lighter, shatter-resistant alternative to glass.

Acrylic acid and its esters readily combine with themselves or other monomers, forming homopolymers or copolymers that are used in the manufacture of various plastics, coatings, adhesives, elastomers, floor polishes and paints.

By: Helena Strathearn
+44 208 652 3214

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