Vinyl chloride monomer Prices, markets & analysis
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Updated to Q4 2014
Despite falling feedstock ethylene prices, vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) producers said that price margins remained extremely tight as derivative polyvinyl chloride (PVC) prices fell steeply as well. As PVC producers formed the majority of VCM buyers, VCM price trends closely mirrored PVC price trends throughout the fourth quarter (Q4). PVC average prices softened from $970/tonne FOB (free on board) northeast (NE) Asia in the week of 3 October to $857.50/tonne FOB NE Asia in the week of 5 December. Meanwhile, average VCM prices fell from $890/tonne CFR (cost & freight) NE Asia to $750/tonne CFR NE Asia over the same period.
Due to the wide buy-sell gap, both buyers and sellers commented that it had been difficult negotiating in Q4. In response to lower price ideas from buyers, some VCM producers chose to reduce their operating rates and produce less VCM. Instead, they would only discuss contracts, a northeast Asia producer said. Similarly, buyers who could not purchase any spot VCM cargoes at their price ideas either chose to buy on a hand-to-mouth basis, fall back on their present inventories, or to buy contractual cargoes.
Updated to Q3 2014
Activity and price indications in the merchant spot vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) market were practically non-existent during the third quarter. This is because the chlorvinyls systems are mainly integrated and therefore consumption is mainly captive in the domestic market. In addition, freight costs are high for VCM, which means that merchant spot activity is challenging both for domestic use and for export and the price difference especially for export has not been large enough to make it economically viable to export any product, according to one main trader.
As a result, VCM spot prices were steady during the third quarter, with values closely around the $700/tonne FOB northwest Europe. A spot offer significantly above the range were heard from one source in the second half of September, but the same source said it had not concluded any business at this level.
Some vinyl plant maintenances took place during the third quarter and some of the turnarounds were carried out through the value chain, and they were also planned so stocks had been built in advance, which meant that they had not given rise to any additional demand requirements. On top of this, downstream PVC demand had been somewhat mixed during the third quarter. In July, PVC demand fairly solid, while in August it was weak due to the summer holidays in Europe. In September, consumption was not as healthy as had been expected, which some players attributed to economic concerns and uncertainty in parts of Europe.
Updated to Q4 2014
The US vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) market saw prices weaken during the fourth quarter as global prices moved down in Asia.
US producers had to contend with higher feedstock costs from ethylene on a number of cracker outages that sent prices for derivative PVC up in September, but quickly began to lower.
Ethylene moved down to an average of $910/ton in November from $1,090/ton in September (from 54.5 cents/lb to 45.5 cents/lb).
That helped producers save margin as they began to price more competitively to maintain export share.
US exports of VCM are up 2% so far this year and in November surpassed 1m tonnes for the first 11 months of this year. Most of that business supplies PVC manufacturers in Colombia, Mexico, Canada and Australia and is done through contract.
US PVC spot export prices fell, too, down from $970-990/tonne on an FOB US Gulf basis in mid-August to $800-830/tonne during the first week of December.
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