Europe benzene remains firm on US pressure, November contract to increase

Source: ICIS News


LONDON (ICIS)--European benzene spot prices have risen further this week, although the upward momentum eased off slightly from mid-week onwards, sources said on Thursday.

The firm status of the US market, based on improved liquidity and a recent decline in average refinery operating rates, remains the main driver that keeps putting pressure on European values.

Even just a week before the November contract price settlement, trading in Europe was not that evident as players were cautious as to how long the situation in the US could last.

US prices might peak this week or next and will soon start to come off,  some believe, while it seems unlikely that values could stay firm throughout November.

In Asia, inventory levels are currently on the high side with ample supply and, therefore, could not trend higher leaving the focus of the European region on the US.

According to estimates, around 20,000-25,000 tonnes, or maybe more, of European material have been recently booked to head there and the current arbitrage shows that there is still room for more parcels to be shipped.

Still, European availability remains very good, even if the market does not feel as long as it did in early October, but some downstream production issues during the past couple of weeks have not allowed supply to become more balanced.

With regard to the upcoming November contract price, the current level of the spot market as well as the trades that have been agreed so far this week point towards a moderate increase of around $30/tonne, some sources said.

With regard to domestic demand, volumes appeared to be running well for the main downstream markets such as isocyanates and styrene.

Meanwhile, Spanish petrochemical producer CEPSA has lifted its force majeure (FM) on cumene, phenol, acetone and alphamethylstyrene, declared late September, the company said on Thursday.

Versalis’s recent FM on phenol, put in place on 16 October, seems to be on-going, although the company appears to be confident that it will be able to lift it either at the end of this week or early next week, according to sources from the phenol market.

On the styrene side, demand is still healthy going into November while production is running well with no lingering supply concerns.

4FE8C9909781C41DF5F592FAC1758231.jpgPhoto: Georg Stelzner / imageBROKER/REX/Shutterstock

Focus article by Vasiliki Parapouli