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Updated to Q4 2020
Supply in Asia decreased. At least three producers had turnarounds in succession in southeast Asia and more producers in northeast Asia lowered their operating rates due to poor margins. Thus few spot cargoes were available.
Demand for Asian cargoes in India significantly increased due to few available cargoes from Middle East due to some plant issues in the Middle East region. Buying sentiment stayed boosted and more Asia producers diverted their cargoes to this region, which lead to limited supply in both CFR southeast Asia market and CFR northeast Asia market, and the limited supply, on the other hand, boosted buying sentiment in those regions.
Supply was moving between balanced and ample at the start of Q4. Production levels were lower due to some turnarounds in Europe which had cut down supplies from the market. This was offset by downstream TDI plants being shut down. There was some tightness in the market with a sudden rise in spot activity which also impacted the truck distributor segment. The situation become balanced towards the end of Q4 due to a slowdown for the holiday period.
Demand from the gasoline blending sector was weak as the economics were not profitable and refiners were not willing to pay high premiums. There was further pressure with the rise in coronavirus infections. Some demand from the chemical sector increased with the restarts from German TDI plants. In November, the spot activity unexpectedly rallied when exports to the US and India surged. The momentum slowed down towards the end of December.
Toluene supplies narrowed for the second half of Q4 as the recent surge in derivative benzene demand from styrene production helped stimulate demand for toluene feedstock for toluene disproportionation (TDP) operations. Supply had been steady for most of the calendar year as the pandemic weakened fundamentals, though began constricting in Q4 as downstream economics have strengthened.
Demand for toluene improved during the quarter as refiners were better incentivised to use toluene for on-purpose benzene production for the first time in many months. Better-than-expected holiday travel demand gave a boost to fuel costs, as toluene has been heard trading in larger premiums to RBOB gasoline since mid-November.
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