Yet another week of price corrections

By Malini Hariharan

Asian petrochemical markets continue to face downward pressure on concerns about the health of the global economy. Market sentiment for most products remains poor with buyers in no rush to resume purchases.

Polyolefin markets closed last week on a weak note. Prices of low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and polypropylene (PP) dropped $10-40/tonne last week across the region, reports ICIS pricing. Linear-low density PE (LLDPE) and high-density PE (HDPE) prices were stable but buying sentiment for the products was weak.

There was little support coming from ethylene and propylene markets. Propylene prices were assessed higher for the week on tight regional supply but buyers stepped back on Friday after a sharp fall in equities and crude oil. Ethylene dropped $10-40/tonne in Southeast Asia with buyers unwilling to enter markets at a time of great uncertainty.

Benzene and styrene markets were also similarly affected with prices of both proudcts sliding $20-40/tonne.

The only exceptions to the trend were paraxylene (PX) and purified terephthalic acid (PTA) as news of an impending shutdown of Fujia Dahua’s 700,000 tonnes/year PX plant spread in the market. The company is at the centre of widespread public protests after a typhoon hit a wall at the plant site. This raised fears of a PX spill prompting local residents to demand closure and relocation of the plant.

However, the strength in the PX and PTA markets is under question given the global economic uncertainty. The news today from the Asian stocks markets is bleak with declines recorded at all major bourses today. Brent crude dropped by more than $3/bbl on news of Libyan rebels capturing Tripoli raising hopes of an end to the country’s civil war and a resumption of Libyan oil exports.

If the trend continues, optimism will be a scarce commodity in petchem markets this week.

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