SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Asia's polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) prices have climbed to a six-year high – above the $3,000/tonne mark – and may remain supported in the near term because of short supply.
For the week ended 8 March, regional PMMA prices rose to an average of $3,025/tonne CFR (cost and freight) SE (southeast) Asia, up by $60/tonne from the previous week, ICIS data showed.
PMMA prices in China for GP (general purpose)-grade goods increased by $35/tonne over the same period to $3,025/tonne CFR China, according to ICIS data.
While an uptrend has been observed since April 2016, spot prices had stayed below the $3,000/tonne mark for the past six years. The current prices were last seen in October 2011, ICIS data indicated.
Regional availability is a main factor keeping PMMA markets supported, industry sources said.
PMMA production was generally restricted amid sustained shortages and growing costs of upstream methyl methacrylate (MMA).
“We can’t run our plant at very high rates because there is not enough MMA,” a producer said.
On 9 March, feedstock MMA prices in Asia for small cargoes of 20-300 tonnes were last assessed stable at $2,640-2,840/tonne CFR SE Asia, up $10/tonne from the previous week’s price range, ICIS data showed.
Upcoming turnarounds for MMA plants, especially in the second quarter, would likely exert further upward pressure on the PMMA market, market participants said.
On the other hand, buyers and sellers remained watchful about the new MMA and PMMA capacities in the Middle East, expecting an uplift in supplies to Asia.
Consumer demand is poised to hold stable. Many buyers continued to purchase PMMA on a need-to basis, keeping an eye on the supply situation.
PMMA prices could be nearing a peak when that happens, sources said.
“I am not stocking up too much for the near term, as PMMA prices now are very high,” a buyer said.
Other plastics markets are also providing support for PMMA markets.
“High polycarbonate (PC) prices make it difficult for some buyers to switch materials, meaning that PMMA is still in demand,” a seller said.
However, a few consumers were exploring the possibility of using substitutes such as polystyrene (PS) or MMA-styrene monomer (MMA-SM) resins for some applications, citing cost differences as a push factor.
Market participants were taking time to understand the impact of China’s hike of antidumping duties (ADD) on MMA imports from Singapore, Thailand and some producers in Japan starting 28 February.
The new ADD rates more than doubled for some companies, including Sumitomo Chemicals Singapore, Thai MMA and PTT Asahi Chemical, as well as three Japanese producers.
PMMA is used in the manufacture of automotive, household and electronic products, and is the largest downstream market of MMA.
Focus article by Kheng Wee Loy
Picture: Inside a car factory in China. (Source: ImagineChina/REX/Shuttestock)