Price and market trends: Asia SAN trades above ABS on weak BD prices

28 March 2014 09:45 Source:ICIS Chemical Business

SAN prices typically trail that of ABS, with a disparity of over $100/tonne at times. But BD has changed the equation

Asian styrene-acrylonitrile (SAN) prices hovered at above acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) prices in the first quarter of this year, bucking the typical trend of SAN numbers trailing that of ABS, said producers and traders on 19 March.

SAN prices were at $1,890-1,920/tonne CFR NE Asia in the week ended 14 March, while ABS prices were at $1,860-1,910/tonne CFR NE Asia for the week ended 18 March, according to ICIS data.

With prices of feedstock butadiene (BD) falling sharply from late February, ABS prices came under renewed downward pressure. BD prices fell from $1,425/tonne CFR (cost & freight) NE (northeast) Asia in late February to $1,190/tonne CFR NE Asia for the week ended 14 March.

Styrene monomer (SM) prices were relatively stable at above $1,600/tonne CFR China while acrylonitirile (ACN) prices were at around $2,000/tonne CFR NE Asia for the week ended 14 March, according to ICIS data.

“Suppliers have priced SAN above ABS recently as SAN does not contain BD which has fallen in value,” said a trader in Hong Kong.

SAN prices typically trail that of ABS, with a price disparity of more than $100/tonne at times.

Product demand
Demand for ABS and SAN showed modest improvement in March as the market picked up from its post-Lunar New Year lull. However, the pick-up was weaker than most suppliers expected. End-users were also careful not to overstock resins as orders for finished goods have not flowed in strongly.

“Demand for ABS and SAN in China is still below expectations although [it] improved from February,” said a South Korean producer. Traders also expect SAN prices to retain a premium over ABS in the near term. Production of SAN is less than 10% of ABS.

“[The] quantity of SAN is much less than ABS and hence it is easier to sustain prices compared to ABS when BD prices are weak,” said a trader in southeast Asia.

By Clive Ong