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Downturn Alert shows markets weakened in Q2

Chemical companies, Economic growth, Futures trading, Oil markets
By Paul Hodges on 04-Jul-2011

D'turn 3Jul11.pngThe last week of a half-year period often sees greater volatility in financial markets, as players rush to position themselves for client reporting.

This was most obvious in stock markets, with the US S&P 500 Index (pink dotted line) staging a 5% rally during the week. Brent crude oil (blue dash) eventually ended unchanged versus last week’s average.

Other constituents of the IeC Downturn Alert were quieter, however, as players avoided taking new positions ahead of the US 4 July holiday. European naphtha inventories were reportedly at a 2011 high.

China has been the weakest link since March. Europe, and then the USA, have followed its lead. As ICIS’ Nel Weddle, a long-time observer of European olefin markets, noted Friday, “opportunistic buyers have had their pick of cargoes and are relishing the availability and weakening prices after months of increases“.

The chart, based on ICIS pricing, updates developments since January:

PTA China (red), down 10%. “The market continued on its bearish trend this week because of persistently weak buying sentiment amid soft PTA futures and a generally downbeat outlook.”
Benzene NWE (green), down 5%. “Values were relatively range-bound throughout the week.”
Naphtha Europe (brown dash), up 6%. Petchem demand was limited, and the widening price spread with propane led to switching.
HDPE USA export (purple), up 12%. “Prices for Asian and Middle Eastern material continued to fall, and remained at least 15-16 c/lb ($331-353/t) below US prices”.
Brent crude oil, up 16%. Consultants Petromatrix suggest the 30.2mmb sale from the US strategic petroleum reserve will put pressure on prices.