The Outlook Sulphur and Sulphuric Acid Prices, markets & analysis
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Updated to Q2 2014
During the second quarter, spot sulphur prices in major importing region China started to ease following a succession of price increases by major Middle East exports to the region. Prices got to such a level that traders and end-users retreated to the sidelines and only entered the market when necessary. At the same time the flow of international sulphur suppliers, largely from Russia and Canada, improved only with warmer weather, and this in turn compounded the downward price sentiment.
Downstream demand was at a steady level during the three month period, although an increase had been expected largely in China following the opening of the export tax window for phosphate fertilizers on 16 May. A boost in downstream demand for phosphates from India, which is a major importing region, failed to materialise for the second-half of May and indeed for much of June, and this kept prices steady. Elsewhere in the world, contracts were covered and only a handful of tenders were seen from South America, with the largest tender concentration from the India market.
Towards the end of the second-quarter, the global market was viewed as balanced, despite claims by Middle East producers that their stock levels were very low.
The global sulphuric acid market during the second quarter was steady in terms of market balance although some minor increases of €2.50/tonne were seen for quarterly contracts. With so few smelter turnarounds, particularly in Europe, there were no problems in terms of availability.
Various tenders were seen from Brazil, Mexico and Chile and during the second half of the quarter export prices from Europe to all three regions started to firm. Freight rates also lifted spot values for the export market. In Asia, availability improved following the start-up of PASAR in the Philippines, but largely the market remained balanced.
NS-Nikko’s copper smelter experienced an unplanned outage and this created some fresh availability for the market, but failed to move it to a long position. Second-quarter contract price for southeast Asia moved up to an average of $40/tonne CFR southeast Asia, from $35/tonne, while the contract price in India rolled over from the second quarter at $35/tonne CFR India. On a spot basis spot prices in southeast Asia moved down from an average of $33.5/tonne CFR southeast Asia, to $31/tonne CFR southeast Asia. In the US, the second-quarter contract price was agreed at $110-160/tonne CFR, up from $94-149/tonne in the first quarter.
The US sulphur market saw some tightness during the second quarter, as refineries went through springtime turnarounds. The Tampa sulphur price settled at $133/long ton DEL (delivered), up by $23/long ton from Q1. The increase was expected to be more extreme due to rising prices internationally, but supply in the US was not as tight domestically.
The US Gulf spot sulphur price has fluctuated, decreasing to reflect international decreases before ticking up as international demand recovered later in the quarter. It is assessed at $140-145/tonne FOB as of 30 June.
In Canada, sulphur loading came back on at Syncrude as Chinese demand re-emerged, balancing the market.
Vancouver contract prices for Q2 were assessed between $120-170/tonne FOB, depending on when they were signed, up by $5-50/tonne from Q1. Demand fell off sharply and spot prices are currently assessed at $130-135/tonne FOB as of 30 June.
The Outlook series of reports is produced by ICIS in partnership with Integer Research. This combined expertise brings together an in-depth understanding of market drivers and pricing, as well as an analysis of market fundamentals such as supply and demand and profitability.
The Outlook Sulphur and Sulphuric Acid Report includes the following for each commodity.
A summary of the key developments globally over the past month and a look at how the market might develop in the near future. This includes an analysis of price fluctuations and key drivers, plus a snapshot of the market drivers broken down by region for quick reference.
Rolling forecasts of key price assessments globally for the next 12 months. This reflects the current prices and expected price trends. Price forecasts and an analysis of the prices are given for each key region. Cost and profitability analyses (DAP margins) are also included.
The key global sources of each fertiliser commodity, with data broken down by key regions. Information on unsold availability from the main suppliers, inter-regional supply and demand flow, production news/updates, disruptions and future capacities are included.
The main potential markets and sources of demand for the year ahead. Detailed information is given on potential consuming regions, including purchased volumes, outstanding requirements and new demand sources.
ICIS collects pricing data on a wide range of chemical, energy and fertilizer products, including The Outlook Sulphur and Sulphuric Acid. Our extensive experience in price reporting means we can offer you access to historical data dating back more than 20 years for certain commodities.
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