HOUSTON (ICIS)--US truck acetone values weakened during April by an average of 3 cents/lb ($66/tonne), most sources confirmed, but consensus was difficult to ascertain in the foggy spring market.
The decline took the April range to 74-78 cents/lb, as assessed by ICIS.
In the meantime, the US large-buyer acetone contract was still being negotiated for April although a couple of early settlements were also confirmed lower.
In the truck and barge markets, weaker values were variously attributed to flat or weaker feedstock refinery-grade propylene (RGP), weaker contract April benzene and increased supply stemming from pre-maintenance inventory build and derivative methyl methacrylate (MMA) spring outages.
Several sources reported heightened acetone spot trading activity during the month, suggesting that lower prices were offered as incentives to purchase excess material that was difficult to store.
Meanwhile in the downstream coating and construction markets, one indicator of future US building activity dipped into negative territory for March after only two months in a soft recovery mode.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) said during the week that its Architectural Billings Index (ABI), which reflects contracted architectural design services, fell to 48.8 for March. Any score below 50 indicates a decrease in demand for architectural design services.
Further muddying the economic outlook were new statistics on US sales of existing homes, which slipped lower in March from February and were 7.5% below the same month last year. Inclement weather and an uncertain economy continue to be cited as primary headwinds to recovery.
Although harsh winter weather is mostly abating, there are near-term forecasts of severe rain and cold in the northeast and heading down into the southeast, including the possibility of tornados in the plains states, including the Dakotas, Kansas and Nebraska.
Major US phenol-acetone producers include Axiall, Dow Chemical, Haverhill Chemical, Honeywell, INEOS Phenol, SABIC Innovative Plastics and Shell Chemical.