TOPIC PAGE: Coronavirus, oil price direction – impact on chemicals

Will Beacham

01-Jul-2022

Here is the energy crisis writ large. The chart, from bp as it released its latest Statistical Review of World Energy this week, shows the sharp rebound in energy consumption as COVID-19 restrictions eased and global economic activity recovered.

In this week’s podcast, ICIS analysts Jady Ma and Lucy Shuai discuss the recent developments and outlook of China’s polypropylene (PP) market amid concerns over COVID-19.

Asia’s acrylic acid (AA) and acrylate esters spot discussions were under pressure, with market sentiment bearish amid a downtrend in China.

The China domestic market was sluggish, with the economy impacted by earlier lockdowns.

Meanwhile, the US ethylene market is seeing ample supply, lower margins but decent derivative demand heading into Q3.

Updated on 1 July 2022

On this topic page we analyse the impact of coronavirus and oil price dynamics on chemical markets and bring together the latest news reported by ICIS. 

Scroll down to see the latest interactive graphics, podcasts and videos. 

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LATEST HEADLINES (Last updated at 09:00 GMT on 1 July 2022)

Mideast petchem market sentiment bearish on weak demand
By Felicia Loo 01-Jul-22 11:30 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Sentiment in the Middle East petrochemical markets is bearish, as demand is tepid against a backdrop of ample supply. The soaring inflation rates have led to a reduced purchasing power, weakening buyers’ appetites.

Asia AA and acrylates largely lower; sentiment softer on China downtrend
By Li Li Chng 29-Jun-22 21:20 SINGAPORE (ICIS)— Asia’s acrylic acid (AA) and acrylate esters spot discussions were under pressure, with market sentiment bearish amid a downtrend in China.

PODCAST: China PP to face uncertainties in H2 ’22 amid high costs
By Lucy Shuai 29-Jun-22 17:47 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–ICIS analysts Jady Ma and Lucy Shuai discuss the recent developments and outlook of China’s polypropylene (PP) market.

PODCAST: Europe and Middle East isocyanates demand slows
By ICIS Editorial 29-Jun-22 17:09 LONDON (ICIS)–Isocyanates Europe editor Zubair Adam discusses current demand and supply market trends for Europe with isocyanates Middle East editor Damini Dabholkar.

US ethylene begins Q3 with ample supply, eroding margins
By John Donnelly 29-Jun-22 05:45 HOUSTON (ICIS)–The US ethylene market is seeing ample supply, lower margins but decent derivative demand heading into Q3.

INSIGHT: Energy demand rebound at a time of crisis, bp stats show
By Nigel Davis 28-Jun-22 23:39 LONDON (ICIS)–Here is the energy crisis writ large. The chart, from bp as it released its latest Statistical Review of World Energy on Tuesday, shows the sharp rebound in energy consumption as COVID-19 restrictions eased and global economic activity recovered.

PODCAST: Isocyanates face high costs, squeezed margins in H2 – ICIS analysts
By Morgan Condon 28-Jun-22 21:02 LONDON (ICIS)–The isocyanates market is faced with steep production costs and weakening demand across downstream sectors, presenting the industry with a darkening outlook.

European PVC shows signs of lengthening on demand, global trends
By Chris Barker 28-Jun-22 17:29 LONDON (ICIS)–European polyvinyl chloride (PVC) contract prices for June have settled with rollovers to decreases compared to May, with indications that the outlook for availability has lengthened compared to earlier in the year.

Asia ADA trade flows punch above weight in May
By Josh Quah 24-Jun-22 13:57 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Northeast Asia adipic acid (ADA) markets logged a large trade surplus in May, according to import-export data captured by ICIS Supply and Demand Database.

Europe capro, nylon 6 markets face slow summer demand
By Marta Fern 24-Jun-22 00:35 LONDON (ICIS)–European caprolactam (capro) and nylon 6 markets are facing persistent soft demand, which could weaken further in the coming months while the costs of production are on the rise.

VIDEO: Asia MEG may face more challenges in H2 2022
By Judith Wang 23-Jun-22 17:16 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Watch ICIS Senior Editor Judith Wang discuss current developments in Asia’s monoethylene glycol (MEG) market and its outlook.

China’s NBR import offers plummet with domestic losses, soft demand
By Ai Teng Lim 23-Jun-22 15:56 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–China’s import offers for acrylonitrile butadiene rubber (NBR) are at year-low levels, as sellers tried to chase deals with wider discounts.

Tight tonnage and robust demand push Asian chemical tanker market, sentiment bullish
By Luffy Wu 23-Jun-22 14:37 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–The Asian chemical tanker shipping market saw overall upward pressure amid high global bunker levels and regional tonnage tightness, drained by robust long-haul activities and clean petroleum product (CPP) markets.

PODCAST: How may China respond to looming global energy crisis?
By Bee Lin Chow 23-Jun-22 13:32 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–ICIS analysts discuss how China may respond to what seems like a looming global energy crisis.

US SBR demand healthy from tyre sector, but tyre imports growing
By Amanda Hay 23-Jun-22 05:34 HOUSTON (ICIS)–US styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) demand healthy for tyres, but North American tyre manufacturers face growing tyre imports.

INSIGHT: Don’t stifle chemicals now in the face of energy uncertainty and climate reform – UK industry
By Nigel Davis 22-Jun-22 22:20 LONDON (ICIS)-The UK chemical industry is now 6% larger than at the onset of the pandemic, chief executive of the country’s sector trade group, the Chemical Industries Association (CIA), said last week.

PODCAST: China benzene prices hit 8-year high; cost and supply support to persist
By Yoyo Liu 17-Jun-22 10:37 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–ICIS analyst Jady Ma and Yoyo Liu discuss the recent developments and outlook of China’s benzene market.

Asian BD buying slows as domestic China tumbles
By Ai Teng Lim 17-Jun-22 09:48 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Sentiment was duller in this week’s spot talks for Asian butadiene (BD) imports, as buyers retreated after the domestic China market suffered heavy losses early-week.

PODCAST: Europe PET speculation rife in face of diverging upstream dynamics
By Caroline Murray 17-Jun-22 00:07 LONDON (ICIS)–Mixed xylene prices are skyrocketing higher than PX prices and concerns over negative margins mount. PX June contract talks are ongoing. By contrast, MEG supply remains lengthy and demand has been low, pressuring down spot prices. The June MEG contract price also remains unconfirmed.

INSIGHT: PET, politicians and TikTok – the industry’s battle for our attention
By Matt Tudball 16-Jun-22 22:17 BRUSSELS (ICIS)–The battle for our attention is a fierce one. In the post-COVID-19 world, as employees we feel a sense of email overload and Zoom fatigue while as a consumer we face a constant bombardment of media telling us what we should be doing, thinking, eating, drinking and watching.

Asian petrochemicals to rebound in June amid bumpy recovery – ICIS analysts
By Ann Sun 16-Jun-22 12:12 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asian petrochemical market is expected to be generally firmer in June given higher crude prices and easing lockdowns in China, according to a latest Price Forecast by ICIS analysts.

PODCAST: Global base oils supply and refinery margins to stay under pressure in H2
By Eashani Chavda 15-Jun-22 22:35 LONDON (ICIS)–ICIS editors Eashani Chavda, Samantha Wright and Amanda Hay are joined by ICIS analyst Mike Connolly to discuss the latest developments in Europe and US base oils markets. Key topics include: supply shortages, shifting trade flows, refinery margins and additive shortages.

PODCAST: Chemical distributors see inflation hurting demand, downturn in prospect
By Will Beacham 14-Jun-22 22:03 BARCELONA (ICIS)–Rising inflation is now hurting demand for chemicals, raising the prospect of a broad economic downturn later this year or in 2023, according to chemical distributors.

China PE finds support from stimulus policies; eyes on demand performance
By Sijia Li 14-Jun-22 14:57 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–China’s domestic polyethylene (PE) market entering June has found support from stimulus policies and costs. Looking ahead, players are focusing on demand recovery, with the easing of lockdowns in multiple regions amid decreasing COVID-19 infections.

India domestic LAB prices rise; China demand improves as lockdowns ease
By Clive Ong 10-Jun-22 11:53 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–India’s domestic prices for linear alkylbenzene (LAB) have spiked on the back of rising costs, but some players expect some headwinds with the monsoon season kicking off.

  • Monsoon season to hamper India demand
  • China demand sees uptick as COVID-19 restrictions ease
  • China’s competitively priced cargoes still available in Asia (including India), Mideast

Oil prices drop more than $1/bbl on partial lockdowns in China
By Nurluqman Suratman 10-Jun-22 11:34 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Oil prices fell more than $1/bbl on Friday on renewed demand fears after fresh COVID-19 lockdown measures were announced in China, but tight supply concerns capped losses.

INSIGHT: Sustainability to remain the key driver for Asia recycled polymers
By Arianne Perez 10-Jun-22 11:00 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Capacity expansions of recycled polyethylene terephthalate (R-PET) and recycled polyethylene (R-PE) faced delays amid the onslaught of COVID-19, particularly last year, but overall growth of Asia polymers recycling is set to continue with sustainability as the main driver.

PODCAST: European ACN market keeps a close eye on ammonia and propylene
By ICIS Editorial 09-Jun-22 18:35 LONDON (ICIS)–The European acrylonitrile (ACN) market has good supply and some softening demand, but costs remain high. In this latest podcast, ICIS deputy managing editor Jane Massingham (Europe) talks to managing editor fertilizers, Julia Meehan and senior editor on olefins, Nel Weddle about the ammonia and propylene markets and what to expect in the months ahead.

PODCAST: Asia benzene, styrene short-term outlook to hinge on demand-supply balance
By Jasmine Khoo 09-Jun-22 11:35 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia’s benzene prices have hit an all-time high on strong performance from the US amid the turnaround season, while styrene price gains have been lagging behind due to weak performance in the styrenics sector. In this podcast, Jasmine Khoo speaks with editors Angeline Soh and Trixie Yap on benzene and its key downstream styrene monomer (SM) and styrenics sectors.

China PP exports may fall on narrow price gap with SE Asia
By Lucy Shuai 08-Jun-22 17:09 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–With the lifting of COVID-19 lockdowns in China, as well as stimulus policies to boost the economy, China’s polypropylene (PP) prices have rebounded since late May. However, as PP prices have fallen in the southeast Asian market, China’s PP exports may fall in June due to a narrow price gap.

VIDEO: China PP demand set to improve in June as restrictions ease
By Lucy Shuai 08-Jun-22 16:21 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Watch industry analyst Lucy Shuai share her insights on the rebound seen in China’s polypropylene (PP) market following the easing of strict COVID-19 curbs in the country.

Asia Q3 biodiesel market sentiment to stay weak on poor European demand
By Felicia Loo 07-Jun-22 12:13 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–The third-quarter market sentiment for southeast Asian palm methyl ester (PME) biodiesel is expected to remain weak amid poor buying requirements from Europe, a key importing region for southeast Asian material.

Germany’s chemicals hit hard by China lockdowns, automotive sentiment improves – Ifo By Jonathan Lopez 03-Jun-22 16:49 MADRID (ICIS)–Lockdowns in China to contain the coronavirus pandemic have had a major impact on export-intensive industrial sectors in Germany such as chemicals, research institute Ifo said on Thursday.

Asia MEG rebounds on higher crude, demand recovery expectations
By Judith Wang 03-Jun-22 10:50 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia’s monoethylene glycol (MEG) weekly prices rebounded during the week amid stronger crude values and expectations of demand improvement due to easing lockdowns in Shanghai.

Global chem production fell 2.9% year on year in April
By Stefan Baumgarten 03-Jun-22 01:57 HOUSTON (ICIS)–Global chemical production volumes in April fell 4.1% month on month and 2.9% year on year, and they were off 0.4% year on year for the first four months of 2022, ICIS senior economist Kevin Swift said in a report on Thursday.

China methanol to face ample supply, mixed demand performance
By Doris He 01-Jun-22 21:05 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–China’s methanol market is expected to face overall ample supply from domestic and overseas producers in the near term, while demand may be mixed from different downstream sectors.

INSIGHT: China, India to be main drivers of PVC supply, demand in Asia
By Jonathan Chou 01-Jun-22 11:00 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–The coronavirus pandemic has changed how we live our lives, upending also supply and demand dynamics for polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and its related markets.

Over two years on since the pandemic hit, much of Asia has attempted “living with COVID-19” in 2022, with some starting to treat it as an endemic disease.

China SM margins likely to be squeezed by higher costs, weak demand
By Tina Zhang 31-May-22 11:55 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Margins in China’s styrene monomer (SM) market are expected to continue to be squeezed in the near term, in view of rising feedstock benzene values and weak demand.

China petrochemical market sentiment upbeat on Shanghai recovery plan
By Fanny Zhang 30-May-22 13:27 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–China’s domestic petrochemical market sentiment is upbeat at the start of the week, with demand expected to recover when the two-month lockdown in Shanghai is lifted in June.

Asian epoxy market stable, Chinese domestic market outlook ambiguous
By Luffy Wu 27-May-22 11:54 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–The Asia epoxy resins market saw overall stable market sentiment while buyers exhibited improved price acceptability compared with in April.

Asia nylon market cautious as Shanghai inches towards June reopening
By Josh Quah 26-May-22 16:16 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–The lockdowns have been damaging for Asia’s nylon market, with prolonged demand loss particularly felt in the CFR (cost & freight) China market. There have been recent signs, however, that the worst may have passed in the lead up to the reopening of key cities in China.

PODCAST: Weak demand from lubricants, China’s Group II base oil import margins to be negative
By Whitney Shi 25-May-22 14:09 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–ICIS analyst Jady Ma and Whitney Shi discuss the recent developments and outlook of China’s base oil market.

INSIGHT: China crude consumption softens amid COVID-19 lockdowns
By Pearl Bantillo 25-May-22 12:00 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–China’s consumption of crude has softened as industrial production is hit by pandemic-related restrictions in place since February, with no sign of the government giving up on its zero-COVID policy.

INTERVIEW: China emergence from lockdowns, stimulus to recharge auto and construction – Covestro CFO
By Joseph Chang 25-May-22 05:17 NEW YORK (ICIS)–China’s easing of and potential emergence from COVID-19 lockdowns along with government stimulus should spark a major recovery in its automotive and construction markets, the chief financial officer (CFO) of Germany-based Covestro said on Tuesday.

Asian MMA peaks in May; outlook pending clarity amid easing restrictions in China
By Li Li Chng 24-May-22 13:47 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asian methyl methacrylate (MMA) peaked in May, after increasing around 17% since H2 February. Market players are awaiting clearer picture on China’s lifting of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions.

PODCAST: Europe PE and PP update and outlook
By Ben Lake 23-May-22 23:42 LONDON (ICIS)–Senior editor, Vicky Ellis, and market editor, Ben Lake, join forces to discuss a distinct change in the polymers market. The frenzied activity in March and April has given way to a far more relaxed sentiment in May – on the buy-side, at least. Vicky and Ben give their outlook for June and take a look at events that could shake up the markets again.

INSIGHT: China PE demand to rebound from June, but slow road ahead
By Amy Yu 23-May-22 18:27 SINGAPORE (ICIS)—China polyethylene (PE) demand is expected to firm as COVID-19 containment measures ease, but the pace of recovery remains hindered by remaining lockdown measures.

Asia BDO under pressure as tepid demand persists, economic uncertainty
By Clive Ong 20-May-22 12:17 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–The Asian butanediol (BDO) market remains under downward pressure from prevailing soft demand in the region. Buying momentum could remain slow in the near term from economic headwinds from the Ukraine conflict and Russian sanctions, as well as the lockdown in China which looks set to ease.

INSIGHT: US supply chain problems may continue for two more years
By Al Greenwood 19-May-22 21:00 HOUSTON (ICIS)–US supply-chain problems could persist for another two years because new problems continue to pop up. Since the pandemic started more than two years ago, problems continue to compound problems, said Eric Byer, president of the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD). He participated in a conference call with the ACC.

Markets sell-off drives down Europe chemical stocks
By Tom Brown 19-May-22 19:28 LONDON (ICIS)–European chemical company stocks fell on Thursday amid a wider market sell-off as below-expectations US retail financials and high domestic inflation drive fears that falling consumer demand could result in a recession.

PODCAST: China’s MMA demand recovery to lag despite Shanghai reopening
By Olivia Dai 19-May-22 15:06 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–ICIS analyst Jady Ma and Olivia Dai discuss the recent developments and outlook of China’s methyl methacrylate (MMA) market.

Asia fatty alcohols near-term demand may pick up on China lockdown easing
By Helen Yan 18-May-22 12:14 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Improved Chinese demand may lend support to Asia’s fatty alcohols market, as China gradually eases its COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. This is amid expectations that Shanghai, a major port and key financial and production hub, is likely to open up fully from 1 June.

Increase of PP, PE imports from China in Pakistan due to lockdowns
By Nadim Salamoun 17-May-22 23:29 DUBAI (ICIS)–Chinese polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE) breakbulk and containerized cargoes have been increasingly available in the Pakistani market, directly competing with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)-origin material. The situation could be attributed to the increased lockdowns in China, which have negatively impacted domestic demand.

PODCAST: Slowing China will hurt global economy, chemicals
By Will Beacham 17-May-22 21:29 BARCELONA (ICIS)–As lockdowns, the Common Prosperity policy and lacklustre export markets cut growth in China’s economy, the global chemical industry should prepare for negative demand growth in 2022.

Easing of lockdown provides limited support for Asian IPA
By Julia Tan 17-May-22 19:31 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asian isopropanol (IPA) markets saw slightly mixed indicative prices in the week, although market sentiment continues to be weak. Market sources underlined on Tuesday that demand was not likely to pick up until mid-June. Despite news that Shanghai lockdowns would begin to ease in early June, a number of market participants were fairly sceptical that this would provide significant support to the Asian IPA markets.

Asia petrochemical supplies rise as China exports grow amid weak yuan
By Fanny Zhang 13-May-22 16:13 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia’s petrochemical markets are being weighed down by growing supply, with China exporting more products – spurred by the weak yuan and poor domestic demand amid lockdowns. The Chinese yuan (CNY) lost nearly 7% against the US dollar from the start of April to 13 May, with the exchange rate at CNY6.79 to $1, data from the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) show. The yuan depreciation has caused a narrowing or closing of arbitrage windows for moving cargoes into China, while opening up better export opportunities. With a weaker yuan, the trading route “out of China” may stay for a while, traders said. The country’s domestic demand is significantly dented by tight restrictions on people movement and business activity following a strong resurgence of COVID-19 infections, consequently, exerting strong downward pressure on Asian markets.

Asia fatty acids remain soft on China lockdowns and Indonesia export ban uncertainty
By Helen Yan 13-May-22 15:05 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia’s fatty acids market is likely to remain soft in the near term, due to the economic slowdown in China and the expected removal of Indonesia’s export ban on crude palm oil (CPO) sometime in May. China lockdowns are weighing on demand in Asia. “There is too much uncertainty, with the market not sure when China will lift its lockdowns and when Indonesia will lift its export ban on palm oil,” a regional supplier said. Market players are adopting a cautious stance and buyers are reluctant to commit to any large spot purchases, given the uncertainty and expectations that the export ban is likely to be removed soon.

Container rates from China to US down by 20% since Shanghai lockdowns began
By Adam Yanelli 13-May-22 05:23 HOUSTON (ICIS)–Rates for shipping containers from east Asia and China to both US coasts have fallen by between 13-20% since COVID-19-related lockdowns began in Shanghai in March, and with China holding fast to its zero-COVID-19 policy, the trend could continue. The impact of the lockdown measures on China’s available exports has been significant, leading to the major ocean shipping alliances announcing cancellations of at least a third of their scheduled sailings out of Asia through early June.

US considers dropping Chinese tariffs to fight inflation – Biden
By Al Greenwood 11-May-22 06:09 HOUSTON (ICIS)–The administration of US President Joe Biden is discussing whether removing the tariffs imposed on Chinese imports would lower inflation, he said on Tuesday. The US imposed tariffs on billions of dollars’ worth Chinese imports – including plastics and chemicals – amid allegations of unfair trade policies on the part of China, which included unfair technology transfers and theft of intellectual property.

INSIGHT: Can US, global economies avoid recession amid a whirlwind of headwinds?
By Joseph Chang 12-May-22 01:10 NEW YORK (ICIS)–Can the US and major economies around the world avoid a recession in the face of what can only be called a whirlwind of headwinds? In the US, the Federal Reserve is moving to tame the inflation beast and engineer a soft landing for the economy. Fed chair Jerome Powell opened the FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) press conference on 4 May by addressing the American people directly. “Inflation is much too high, and we understand the hardship it is causing, and we’re moving expeditiously to bring it back down. We have both the tools we need and the resolve it will take to restore price stability on behalf of American families and businesses,” said Powell.

Asian spot TiO2 to come under pressure from weak Chinese yuan in early May
By Joson Ng 06-May-22 11:17 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–A depreciating Chinese currency against the US dollar could start to have an impact on the Asian titanium dioxide (TiO2) spot market starting in May.

Turkey PE and PP prices stable, market quiet amid public holidays
By Samantha Wright 05-May-22 23:53 LONDON (ICIS)–Turkish polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) values were steady this week due to a lack of activity following a public holiday.

Europe ABS, SAN import challenge likely to persist
By Yashas Mudumbai 05-May-22 19:20 LONDON (ICIS)–Acquiring imports from Asia for European styrene acrylonitrile (SAN) and acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) market players remains a challenge amid ongoing logistical constraints. There has been some tightness in supply due to reduced imports from Asia.

INSIGHT: EU Russia oil ban will further drive global remapping of trade
By Tom Brown 05-May-22 19:11 LONDON (ICIS)–The European Commission’s proposed ban on Russian oil imports by the end of the year is more likely to drive further remapping of global trade flows than drive a spike in crude prices, but the pain could be more substantial in refined products markets.

Oil rises more than $1/bbl on supply worries; China woes cap gains
By Nurluqman Suratman 04-May-22 12:54 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Oil prices rose by more than $1/bbl on Wednesday on concerns over tight supply after industry data showed a drop in US crude and fuel inventories last week, but worries over poor manufacturing data from China capped gains.

PODCAST: Europe chemicals could face short periods of gas rationing this winter
By Will Beacham 03-May-22 22:12 BARCELONA (ICIS)–European chemical companies may be forced to cut gas use for short periods this winter if demand is very high and supply crimped, though steps are being taken to avoid this scenario.

Margin pressure to persist in European ethanolamines market
By Cameron Birch 03-May-22 21:33 LONDON (ICIS)–Two main questions dominate the European ethanolamines market as participants make forecasts for the rest of Q2 and into Q3. First, is the question of continued uncertainty linked to feedstock costs, and, second, is the uncertainty that surrounds the demand picture across the continent.

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