WAS IT JUST an almightily big bubble that cannot now be re-inflated, even if Beijing follows through on its plans to inject $148bn in loans into the country’s troubled real -estate sector? Once confidence has gone, such an intangible thing, there is a risk it cannot be restored.
Asian Chemical Connections
IF THERE IS no return to the historic patterns of spreads between China’s petrochemicals prices and feedstock costs, there will be no economic recovery.
GEOPOLITICS IS, I believe, just one aspect of a crisis facing the chemicals industry that is deeper and more complex than anything we have faced before.
Front mind right now in geopolitics is Ukraine-Russia and the gas-supply crisis facing Europe,
THE GLOBAL CHEMICALS industry is, I believe, facing a demand and supply crisis on a scale and on a level of complexity that nobody has experienced before. This is a huge subjects requiring a series of posts. Let me start by looking at China’s role in this crisis. In later posts.
THE LATEST DATA on linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) China CFR (cost & freight) pricing spreads over CFR Japan naphtha costs underlines the evidence from the other grades of polyolefins, that China is a long way from a full economic recovery.
CHIINA’S LDPE spreads over naphtha feedstock costs have held up very well this. But this doesn’t mean to say that demand is good. Chinese demand could fall by as much as 8% in 2022.
My previous best-case outcome for China’s HDPE demand growth in 2022 was 6%. My worst-case scenario was a 3% decline. Now, though, I worry that the best-case outcome for 2022 HDPE demand could be flat or zero growth. My worst-case outcome is a 4% decline.
AS RECENTLY AS 2020, China’s polypropylene (PP) exports totalled just 424,746 tonnes, causing what must have been barely a ripple of anxiety among the major Asian and Middle East exporters. But as the slide below shows, in 2021, China moved into the group of top exporters as its exports surged to 1.4m tonnes. This year, exports could be 1.7m tonnes or higher.
Comparative PE and PP pricing data between Vietnam and southeast asia – and the “spreads” numbers between China PE and PP prices and naphtha costs – suggest the China economy has yet to recover.
High-density polyethylene (HDPE) demand in the developing world in 2023 could contract by 300,000 tonnes, rather than, as in our base case, grow by 800,000 tonnes because of the food crisis.
Assuming all the other regions grew as under our base case, global growth would be 2% in 2023 rather than our base case of 4%.