For three wonderful years, petrochemical producers have had the pricing power thanks to tight supply and demand balances and very strong growth economic growth.
Now with crude close to pushing past the pyschologically important $100 a barrel barrier and construction sectors in the West slowing down on the sub-prime crisis, the polyvinyl chloride industry in Europe has reported a sea change reports Nigel Davis of ICIS news.
Speciality chemical producers Rhodia and Clariant have both annnounced price rises. If they fail to achieve their targeted increases, it will be a further indication of the shift in dynamics.
It is too early to make a call on Asia. Maybe the economic decoupling that everyone talks about will leave producers here with the power to push through increases.
However, with naphtha in Asia at another all-time high yesterday of $888-890/tonne CFR Japan, any naphtha cracker operator would be bleeding money based on current product prices. Cost increases are necessary and so the next few weeks could be critical.
And nobody probaby needs reminding that from the second half next year, supply will begin to lengthen as new capacity is commissioned. We could face the perfect storm of persistently high feedstock costs, lower economic growth and longer supply.