China's Dalian futures market has been the global centre of speculative polymers trading for over a year. It traded an amazing 80 million tonnes of LLDPE in April 2009, as excitement built. And volume (blue line) remained positive on a year-on-year basis until January. But since then, comparisons have been negative:
• February's volumes were down 50% versus 2009; March was down 38%; April was down 74%; and now May was down 46%.
• Volumes on the new PVC contract are also lower, at just 7 MT in May versus 44 MT in December.
Equally, pricing (red line) has been on a declining trend since February, even though crude oil prices rose strongly until April. This divergence is also a warning sign, as it suggested traders were beginning to question the physical market's ability to pass-through ever higher prices.
For the moment, both the bulls and the bears can still present an argument for their case. But the bulls need a quick recovery in volume, if prices are not to remain under pressure.