Price and market trends: US maleic acid contracts dip and buyers seek further decreases

Source: ECN


April contract prices for US maleic anhydride (MA) were assessed slightly downward in what market participants described on 9 April as a "mixed bag" of contract negotiations.

US MA was assessed by ICIS at 92.20-98.20 cents/lb ($2,033-2,165/tonne, €1,565-1667/tonne), down by 1 cent/lb from March levels.

US MA pricesThroughout much of March, it appeared that April contracts might be headed for a price decrease in the 3 cent/lb range because of a sustained decrease in the price of primary feedstock normal butane, also called n-butane.

But while that feedstock price decrease continues, there was more recently a tightening of supply because of production outages at at least two facilities.

One producer had some difficulties ramping up to full production following its planned maintenance, but has since resolved those issues for the most part, market sources said. Another producer was said to be in a maintenance shutdown, but that was unconfirmed.

Many buyers were pressing for a larger MA price decrease based on the feedstock costs, but producers countered with the argument that demand was greater than supply.

One producer confirmed that it had offered a decrease to some customers, based on the size of the account and other factors. Another producer said it had offered no decreases at all.

A large buyer said it was continuing to seek a price decrease for April, but that seemed unlikely. However, the buyer said it expects the supply-demand balance to be resolved in the next few weeks, and that it would actively seek a price decrease in May.

Major US producers of MA include Ashland, BASF, Flint Hills Resources, Huntsman, and LANXESS.