HOUSTON (ICIS)--Domestic prices of US methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) fell 3 cents/lb ($66/tonne) on Friday, as sources indicated that the market was softening amid more competition from abroad.
Sources also said that producers were starting to relent on potential MEK price increases.
Current ICIS-assessed prices for domestic MEK is a range of 76.00-78.00 cents/lb ($1,675-1,719/tonne).
Although there had been no formal MEK price announcements, sources in recent weeks had indicated that MEK producers were trying to quietly implement increases on an account-by-account basis.
Many, however, did not see reason for any increases, as the market had been described as balanced.
“I’m guessing that someone saw the latest import reports, and realised that they really couldn’t go up on MEK,” a source said.
Sentiment in the market in recent weeks has been that US MEK producers were growing nervous about competition, as more foreign producers were starting to export more material to the US.
The latest figures from the International Trade Commission appear to support that sentiment. Year-on-year MEK imports into the US more than tripled in November, increasing to 8,882 tonnes in November 2013 from 2,423 tonnes in November 2012. Major sources for MEK imports were South Africa, the Netherlands, the UK and China.
Major producers of MEK are ExxonMobil, Sasol, Dow Chemical and Shell.