TOPIC PAGE: Coronavirus, oil price crash - impact on chemicals

2020/05/29

Asian petrochemical shares fell along with crude oil on Friday on concerns over China’s decision to impose a new national security law on Hong Kong, which the US, UK, Canada and Australia deemed to be “in direct conflict with its international obligations”.

In the vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) market, northeast Asian producers have hiked offers to pass on firmer ethylene input costs to buyers, while demand remained weak and supply ample.

Economic data out of Asia continued to show strong hits from the measures implemented to contain the deadly novel coronavirus pandemic.

Japan’s industrial production in April fell 9.1% from the previous month and is projected to contract again in May. The country was in a state of emergency from early April to late May.

On this topic page we analyse the impact of coronavirus and the oil price collapse on chemical markets and bring together the latest news reported by ICIS. To visit the ICIS energy markets topic page, click here

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LATEST HEADLINES

Asia’s VAM market may continue to languish amid ample supply
By Helen Lee 2020/05/29 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Asia’s vinyl acatete monmer (VAM) market may continue to languish despite firmer upstream ethylene input costs in May as the lack of supply shortage amid a weakened state of demand continued to negate suppliers’ price hike initiatives.

Northeast Asia-based producers announced price hikes in their domestic and export offers in an attempt to pass on firmer ethylene input costs.

Japan April industrial production falls led by motor vehicles
By Pearl Bantillo 2020/05/29 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Japan’s industrial production in April declined, led by motor vehicles, with further contraction expected in May as the world’s third-biggest economy is in the throes of a pandemic-induced recession.

The April production index on a seasonally adjusted month-on-month basis was down 9.1% , and down 14.4% on a year-on-year basis, data from Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) showed.

Asia petrochemical shares, oil prices fall amid growing US-China tensions
By Nurluqman Suratman 2020/05/29 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Asian petrochemical shares and oil prices fell on Friday as risk sentiment continued to be weighed by ongoing tensions between the US and China.

US IPA price ranges narrow as supply increases, demand stays high
By Deniz Koray 2020/05/28 HOUSTON (ICIS)-- Isopropanol (IPA) price ranges continue to narrow as the high end of the market sees declining prices.The lower end is seeing either stable or slightly increased pricing, because demand is still much higher compared with pre-coronavirus levels.

PE price downturn an ‘over-correction’ - Dow CEO
By Joseph Chang 2020/05/28 NEW YORK (ICIS)--Polyethylene (PE) prices have over-corrected based on a sharp collapse in crude oil prices in late April. This could now reverse amid the upturn in crude and a continued recovery in demand as economies open up, the CEO of Dow said on Thursday.

Dow wants clarity on US, China trade before pursuing megaprojects
By Al Greenwood 2020/05/28 HOUSTON (ICIS)--Dow wants more clarity about how trade relations between the US and China will evolve before it pursues a large chemical megaproject, the CEO said on Thursday.

PODCAST: US PE demand better than expected in May, packaging industry a bright spot
By Zachary Moore 2020/05/28 HOUSTON (ICIS)--US polyethylene (PE) markets may be nearing a trough as demand improves and feedstocks move higher.

INSIGHT: US CO2 shortage persists amid lower ethanol, refinery rates
By Al Greenwood 2020/05/28 HOUSTON (ICIS)--Falling production at refineries and ethanol plants in the US has caused a shortage of carbon dioxide (CO2), leading to surcharges that can sometimes exceed the price of the gas.

Europe chems stocks rise on lockdown easings despite uphill struggle ahead

By Jonathan Lopez 28-May-20 18:29 LONDON (ICIS)--European chemicals stocks and bourses rose healthily on Thursday on the back of hopes the lockdown easings will revive economic activity and liquidity provided by central banks will soften the recession blow.

However, crude oil futures for delivery in July, which surpassed the $36/bbl mark earlier in the week, traded by Thursday afternoon closer to the $34/bbl mark.

As such, values for crude-linked petrochemicals like naphtha or styrene have also fallen slightly from prices earlier in the week.

Russia, key ally of the OPEC cartel, is showing signs of a faltering commitment to the output cut agreement with Saudi Arabia, which has put pressure on prices.

Another risk factors increasing is the US-China relationship, which is also showing growing tensions on the back of China’s security law on Hong Kong passed on Thursday.

German economy to contract by 6.6% in 2020, chems to recover in nine months
By: Morgan Condon 2020/05/28 LONDON (ICIS)--The German economy is anticipated to contract by 6.6% in 2020, leading to growth of 10.2% the following year from that lower level, according to analysis from the ifo Institute on Thursday.

The estimate was released in the institute’s updated economic forecast for 2020/21 – following a survey among companies in May – which outlines a 12.4% drop in the second quarter this year and a recovery expected by the middle of 2021.

While services remain more affected by the impact of the pandemic than manufacturing, the chemicals industry may be one of the slowest to recover, with normalisation in the sector likely to happen in 10 months’ time.

China must import more crude oil, expand storage amid low prices
By Fanny Zhang 28-May-20 12:13 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--China must take advantage of current low oil prices to import more volumes, with members of its parliament urging the government to boost storage capacity.

Members of the country’s National People’s Congress (NPC), whose sessions this year run from 22-28 May, have called on the government to make use of all facilities, including strategic reserve, commercial reserve, big tankers or refiner’s tanks to stockpile as much as possible to secure supply at low cost.

Asia petrochemical shares mixed on US-China worries; oil drops on US inventory build
By Nurluqman Suratman 28-May-20 12:11 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Asian petrochemical shares were mixed on Thursday amid growing tensions between the US and China while oil prices fell after weekly data showed a surprise increase in inventories.

Investors are now worried that any punitive response by the US to China over Hong Kong could result in a tit-for-tat reaction from the Chinese government, but sentiment remains supported by news of further stimulus measures.

India’s antidumping probe into NBR imports to have limited impact
By Helen Yan 28-May-20 16:38 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--The impact of anti-dumping investigations into acrylonitrile butadiene rubber (NBR) imports into India will be limited as overall demand has shrunk due to the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Demand is weak everywhere due to the pandemic. It is the tendency of every country to protect their local economy and it will be difficult to redirect the sales to India to other countries,” an Asian NBR producer said.

US fuel ethanol prices rise, concerns around US-China trade tensions mount
By Alex Snodgrass 2020/05/27 HOUSTON (ICIS)--US spot fuel ethanol prices rose this week as demand continues to show signs of a recovery, although not as quickly as market participants had thought.

US May propylene contracts roll over on higher costs, lower demand
By Michael Sims 2020/05/27 HOUSTON (ICIS)--US May propylene contracts settled at a rollover from April, as rising feedstocks and less refinery production are being counter-balanced by coronavirus-softened demand.

Germany's VCI pulls 2020 forecast, expects ‘severe recession’
By: Stefan Baumgarten 2020/05/27 LONDON (ICIS)--Germany’s chemicals trade group VCI expects a “severe recession” with a significant drop in chemical and pharmaceutical production and sales because of the coronavirus pandemic, it said on Wednesday.

The group dropped its previous projection from March when it forecast a production decline of 1.5% this year and sales of €196bn. VCI expects to publish an updated 2020 forecast only after Q2.

A decline in orders, disrupted supply chains and a lack of transport capacities were causing problems for the industry, VCI said.

Pandemic could deepen petchems supply/demand imbalance - IEA
By: Tom Brown 2020/05/27 LONDON (ICIS)--The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic could exacerbate the supply/demand imbalance for some petrochemicals brought on by huge capacity expansions in recent years, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Wednesday, as energy investment this year stands to drop to historic lows.

The impact of global economic collapse brought on by the coronavirus outbreak has led the agency to reverse its projections for energy sector investment growth this year, from a 2% increase to a 20% drop, representing an investment shortfall of $400bn compared to 2019, according to the agency’s energy investment report.

The IEA report traditionally looks at spending patterns the previous year, but the dramatic disruption this year led the agency to look at spending in 2020 so far and projections for the future.

Asia petrochemical shares mixed; oil falls on US-China tensions
By Nurluqman Suratman 2020/05/27 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Asian petrochemical shares were mixed on Wednesday, while oil futures were lower amid concerns over rising tensions between the US and China.

Asia adipic acid trade subdued; June downstream demand weak

By Zhi Xuan Ho SINGAPORE (ICIS)--The Asia adipic acid (ADA) markets were weakly traded in May, with several key buyers in China and South Korea reducing contractual volumes and cutting back on spot purchases on consistently weak downstream demand.

Ongoing lockdowns and physical distancing measures in Asia to curb the spread of the coronavirus have caused most brick-and-mortar stores to remain closed, greatly reducing demand for PU, synthetic leather, and shoes.

VIDEO: China's domestic SM prices fluctuate in May amid strong fundamentals

By Veronica Zhang 2020/05/27 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Watch industry analyst Tina Zhang discuss the latest developments in China's domestic styrene monomer (SM) market which have seen prices fluctuating amid strong supply and demand.

VIDEO: Asian chemical freight rates see support from improving demand

By Ai Teng Lim 2020/05/27 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Watch ICIS editor Ai Teng discuss the latest developments in the Asian chemical shipping market.

US chem shares soar with stock market
By Al Greenwood 2020/05/26 HOUSTON (ICIS)--US-listed shares of chemical companies surged on Tuesday with the general market, amid news of another company proceeding with plans to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus (Covid-19).

ICIS Webinar: Debt ratio spikes in chemicals amid coronavirus likely to be transitory - Moody’s
By Joseph Chang 2020/05/26 NEW YORK (ICIS)--The expected increase in leverage ratios for US and European chemical companies amid the coronavirus crisis is likely to be transitory, analysts at credit ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service said on Tuesday.

INSIGHT: Europe PET demand outlook unclear as lockdowns ease, market remains in survival mode
By Caroline Murray 2020/05/26 LONDON (ICIS)--The polyethylene terephthalate (PET) industry in Europe had a surprisingly good run on sales during March’s pandemic shopping spree, but there is no getting away from the toll of a depressed economy.

Consumer focus was on essentials. And on the shopping list were 1l, 1.5l even 2l PET bottles of water and olive oil, for example.

Plastic-clad fruit and vegetables and other foods encased in packaging won over shoppers because of the hygiene aspect.

April demand was still good, particularly the first half, but the panic has since disappeared.

Europe virgin PET much cheaper than R-PET

PODCAST: Global PVC export prices rebound in May as demand recovers, players sense end of dip
By ICIS Editorial 2020/05/26 LONDON (ICIS)--US and European polyvinyl chloride (PVC) export prices have rebounded in May after a severe slump in April, as demand has recovered and market players sense that the downtrend has come to an end.

US senior editor, manager Bill Bowen and UK senior editor Chris Barker discuss the outlook for the market in view of the coronavirus impact.

Click on the headline or scroll down to hear the podcast.

PODCAST: Chemicals to be squeezed between rising costs, collapsing demand
By Will Beacham 2020/05/25 BARCELONA (ICIS)--The global chemical industry will suffer more than other manufacturing sectors, squeezed between rising feedstock costs and collapsed demand as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds.

- Rising oil price heaps pressure on chemicals
- Many chemical prices not rising with oil, squeezing margins
- Consumer sentiment poor, strong rebound as lockdowns ease unlikely
- Demand growth expected very negative, especially for durable goods
- Hertz bankruptcy will flood US market with used vehicles
- China export demand low, slow path out of crisis
- China: could chemicals ramp up be speculative?
- Decade of lost growth for developing countries, millions pushed into poverty
- World moving to a New Normal of persistent low demand growth
- Chemical industry should “wake up” and focus on new reality
- Concerns about social unrest as economic depression develops

Click on the headline or scroll up to hear the podcast. 

Asian petrochemical shares, oil prices rise on H2 recovery hopes
By Nurluqman Suratman 2020/05/26 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Asian petrochemical shares and oil prices rose on Tuesday as more countries eased coronavirus restrictions, supporting investor hopes of a global recovery in the second half of the year.

Singapore's Q1 GDP contracts by 0.7%; 2020 growth forecast lowered
By Nurluqman Suratman 2020/05/26 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--The Singapore economy contracted by 0.7% year on year in the first quarter, the first contraction since the global financial crisis, partly weighed by the output decline in the chemicals cluster, official data showed on Tuesday.

The first-quarter contraction reverses the 1.0% growth seen in the fourth quarter of 2019, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said in a statement.

PODCAST: Asia Special Report - China Base Oils
By Whitney Shi 2020/05/26 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--CFR (cost & freight) China prices for Group II base oils have dropped to a 10-year low in mid-May. On 22 May, import prices for Group II base oil N150 averaged $350/tonne CFR China, down by $265/tonne from the beginning of the year.

In this episode of the ICIS Asia podcast, Jady Ma speaks with Whitney Shi, editor for the ICIS China Base Oils report on recent trends and outlook.

US BD depressed into H2 on expected slow automotive recovery
By Amanda Hay 2020/05/22 HOUSTON (ICIS)--US butadiene (BD) markets appear set to remain depressed into the second half of 2020 as the automotive sector reels from the economic and workforce impacts of coronavirus.

After volatility in March and April, US IPA markets see more consistency
By Deniz Koray 2020/05/22 HOUSTON (ICIS)--Isopropanol (IPA) prices skyrocketed in March and April, as the coronavirus spread rapidly throughout the US and Western Europe.

Asia petrochemical shares, oil slump as China sets no 2020 GDP goal
By Pearl Bantillo 2020/05/22 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Shares of petrochemical firms in Asia slumped along with oil prices on Friday on heightened concerns about demand after China skipped setting a GDP goal for the first time in 30 years.

Consumption of many plastics in the region is expected to stay limited, with supply outstripping demand, as uncertainties cloud global economic prospects even as more countries are emerging from pandemic-induced lockdowns.

Asia's petchem demand stays bleak in new norm uncertainty
By Felicia Loo 2020/05/22 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Asia’s consumption for many plastics would be limited even as countries ease their lockdowns gradually, as the uncertainty surrounding the new norm in a yet-to-foreseen success against the coronavirus remains.

In the petrochemical chain, a common trend emerges, that is, supply is outstripping demand in general.

Range of IPA prices narrow as high demand begins to stabilise
By: Deniz Koray 2020/05/21 HOUSTON (ICIS)--Although demand for isopropanol (IPA) remains much higher than pre-coronavirus levels, it has begun to stabilise, especially when compared with April.

US chem shares mixed as oil rises, stock markets fall
By Al Greenwood 2020/05/21 HOUSTON (ICIS)--US-listed chemical shares were mixed as oil prices rose while general stock markets fell.

VIDEO: US PE prices could be nearing a trough
By Zachary Moore 2020/05/21 HOUSTON (ICIS)--Watch Deputy Managing Editor Zachary Moore provide an update on US polyethylene (PE) markets. PE markets may be nearing a trough as demand improves and feedstocks move higher.

Sentiment shifting in US PE markets as export offers rise
By Zachary Moore 2020/05/21 HOUSTON (ICIS)--Sentiment is showing signs of shifting in the US polyethylene (PE) market. Export offers are starting to trend higher while price increase initiatives have been announced in the domestic market.

Eurozone collapse eases as lockdowns lift
By: Tom Brown 2020/05/21 LONDON (ICIS)--The unprecedented collapse in eurozone private sector growth seen in April as a result of the shutdown of non-essential business across most of the bloc eased slightly in May, but still remained deep in contraction territory, according to analyst data.

The composite eurozone purchasing managers’ index (PMI), covering manufacturing and service sector output growth – rebounded from the record low of 13.6 recording in April, to 30.5, as governments moved to gradually ease controls on populations and allow more of the economy to reopen.

A PMI level of below 50.0 indicates contraction, and under more normal economic circumstances a PMI reading of below 45 would represent a dramatic contraction for a eurozone country.

Europe IPA falls on competition from ethanol in hand-gel market
By: Anne-Sophie Briant-Vaghela 2020/05/21 LONDON (ICIS)--The European isopropanol (IPA) market continued to slow from the high demand seen in March and April. There was even a degree of length seen this week on ample imports and increased competition from ethanol in the hand-gel market.

"There is relief on IPA demand coming from hand sanitiser manufacture as a number of customers have jumped on ethanol to produce the gels," said a trader.

This week, IPA technical grade was assessed at €2,200-€2,800/tonne FD NWE, down €300/tonne at the low end - its sharpest since prices peaked in April - and €200/tonne at the high end.

Japan April exports see biggest slump since 2009; chemical shipments fall 6.3%
By Pearl Bantillo 2020/05/21 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Japan’s exports in April posted their sharpest decline since the global financial crisis of 2009, with chemical shipments down 6.3% year on year as external demand suffered ravages from the coronavirus pandemic.

Total exports of the world’s third-biggest economy shrank 21.9% year on year to yen (Y) 5.20tr ($48.3bn), while imports fell by 7.2% to Y6.13tr, according to data from Japan’s Ministry of Finance.

The country posted a trade deficit of Y930.4bn in April.

Asian petchem shares, oil prices rise on global recovery hopes
By Nurluqman Suratman 2020/05/21 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Asian petrochemical shares rose on Thursday while crude oil extended recent gains on hopes of a recovery in global economic activity in the second half of the year.

US fuel ethanol producers continue to face margin pressure, some consider the switch to industrial production
By Alex Snodgrass 2020/05/20 HOUSTON (ICIS)-- US fuel ethanol producers continue to feel margin pressure, despite indications of demand recovery, as stocks remain elevated and consumers remain hesitant to resume their normal lives.

Europe benzene-naphtha spread narrows as spot feedstock cost rises
By: Helena Strathearn 2020/05/20 LONDON (ICIS)--The spread between benzene and naphtha pricing in Europe is narrowing as naphtha spot values have jumped since April.

The spread is also impacted by benzene in Europe being priced at around $80/tonne below Asia, where the spread to naphtha is more reasonable.

Price recovery so far is most positive in Asia, as it was hardest hit first by the pandemic.

PODCAST: Can chemicals sustainability agenda survive the pandemic?
By: Will Beacham 2020/05/18 BARCELONA (ICIS)--With economies collapsing around the world and chemical supply chains under intense pressure, the circular economy and the sustainability agenda also faces disruption.

- Recycled polymer markets squeezed as virgin prices fall
- Bankruptcies and closures possible in May/June
- Commitments and targets on sustainability likely to remain in place
- But the crisis may make it more difficult to meet targets
- Move from global to local supply chains will support recycling

Listen to this podcast interview with Matt Tudball, ICIS Senior Editor for recycled polyethylene terephthalate (R-PET); Mark Victory, ICIS Senior Editor for recycled polyethylene (R-PE) and recycled polypropylene (R-PP); John Richardson, ICIS Senior Consultant, Asia; and Paul Hodges, chairman at consultancy International eChem.

Click on the headline or scroll up to hear the podcast.

Asia petrochemical markets track recent crude gains as demand picks up
By Pearl Bantillo 2020/05/20 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Asia’s petrochemical markets are tracking recent gains in crude oil as demand has picked up as more economies are gradually re-opening from pandemic-induced lockdowns, but the overall outlook is still riddled with uncertainties.

Fears of a second wave of coronavirus infections keep any market optimism in check.

India's proposed 15% 'covid tax' draws ire from chemical end-users
By Priya Jestin 2020/05/20 MUMBAI (ICIS)--India is proposing to impose a 15% tax on all chemical and petrochemical imports, to protect the domestic industry in the current fiscal year ending March 2021 as the south Asian nation battles the coronavirus pandemic.

Downstream end-users, however, have posed strong opposition to the measure dubbed as “covid (coronavirus disease) tax” - which was supposed to take effect for 11 months from May 2020 - as this will translate to higher cost of production.

Asian petchem shares, oil prices mixed amid doubts on new virus vaccine
By Nurluqman Suratman 2020/05/20 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Asian petrochemical shares and oil prices were mixed on Wednesday as investors mulled over fresh doubts cast on a promising coronavirus vaccine that is currently on trial.

Health-focused media firm STAT on Tuesday reported that vaccine experts are maintaining that the drug company running the trial did not produce the data critical to assess the vaccine's success.

US May epoxy soft amid competitive material, slower demand
By Tarun Raizada 2020/05/19 HOUSTON (ICIS)--US epoxy is soft in May due to pressure from imports and headwinds in demand.

In general, downward pressure has been noted for both domestic and imported material this month. The recent downward trend has provided an opportunity for some players to restock.

VIDEO: US IPA eases with improving supply, but demand remains strong
By Deniz Koray 2020/05/19 HOUSTON (ICIS)--Watch Markets Reporter Deniz Koray discuss the supply and demand dynamics facing US isopropanol (IPA) markets during the coronavirus.

US chems shares fall with general market
By Al Greenwood 2020/05/19 HOUSTON (ICIS)--Most US-listed chemical shares followed by ICIS fell on Tuesday, following the trend of the general stock markets.

Asia petrochemical shares, oil gain on promising results for coronavirus vaccine
By Nurluqman Suratman 19-May-20 12:15 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Asian petrochemical shares and oil prices rose on Tuesday amid hopes of a quick economic recovery following positive data from an early-stage trial for a coronavirus vaccine.

Overnight, shares of US-listed chemical companies rose sharply after biotech firm Moderna announced positive phase-one results for its coronavirus vaccine, boosting hopes that a vaccine could be available late this year.

Singapore petchem exports outlook remains bleak on weak demand
|By Nurluqman Suratman 19-May-20 16:43 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Singapore's trade prospects will continue to be clouded by the uncertainty surrounding the length and severity of the coronavirus crisis as major economies grapple with a sharp recession.

Singapore's petrochemical exports fell by 24.9% year on year in April, worsening from the 22.5% drop in March.

Japan braces for a deeper Q2 downturn; global recession to hit exports
By Pearl Bantillo 19-May-20 15:03 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Japan is bracing for a steeper downturn in economic activity after slipping into a recession, as the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic on businesses, investments and consumption will hit the second quarter.

The world’s third-biggest economy has officially plunged into a recession in the first quarter, when GDP posted a 3.4% year-on-year contraction, following on from a 7.3% decline in the preceding quarter, which was hit by a two-percentage point hike in consumption tax.

US chem shares soar on oil rally, coronavirus-vaccine advance
By Al Greenwood 2020/05/18 HOUSTON (ICIS)--Shares of US-listed chemical companies rose sharply - many by double digits - on Monday amid a rally in oil prices and positive developments in a vaccine against the coronavirus.

PODCAST: US IPA sees easing but tight supply, demand remains strong
By Deniz Koray 2020/05/1 HOUSTON (ICIS)--US isopropanol (IPA) faces easing supply, although it remains tight, as demand remains strong.

Markets reporter Deniz Koray discusses IPA and what is to come in this podcast interview

ICIS WEBINAR: Coronavirus smothers US PE expansion wave
By Al Greenwood 2020/05/18 HOUSTON (ICIS)--The coronavirus has smothered the next wave of new US projects, from ethane extraction all the way down to polyethylene (PE).

On the one hand, US plants have lost much of their feedstock advantage against foreign producers because of the crash in oil prices, said Joseph Chang, global editor of ICIS Chemical Business (ICB).

Asia petrochemical shares, oil prices rise on further easing of lockdowns
By Nurluqman Suratman 18-May-20 12:51 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Asian petrochemical shares rose on Monday in cautious trade, while oil prices surged by more than $1/bbl as more countries are gradually lifting coronavirus-related restrictions on business activity and people movement.

Japan economy falls into recession; Q1 GDP contracts 3.4% year on year
By Pearl Bantillo 2020/05/18 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Japan has slipped into a recession with another quarter of GDP contraction as the coronavirus pandemic continues wreaking havoc on the world’s third-biggest economy.

It posted an annualized GDP contraction of 3.4% in the first quarter of 2020, preliminary government data showed, following on from a revised steeper contraction of 7.3% in October-December 2019.

India's ailing auto industry needs long-term reforms for revival
By Priya Jestin 2020/05/18 MUMBAI (ICIS)--While the Indian government’s recent move to infuse liquidity into the economy through a $266bn fiscal stimulus package could help the domestic auto industry, the sector will require long-term reforms to revive it, said industry experts.

Last week, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi announced a $266bn fiscal stimulus package to help revive the economy after a nearly two-month long pandemic-induced lockdown, which began on 24 March.

On 17 May, India extended its lockdown for two more weeks until 31 May.

Tightening US styrene supply offset by demand erosion
By Renato Frimm 2020/05/15 HOUSTON (ICIS)--US styrene supply tightened slightly this week as producer INEOS Styrolution kept its Texas City, Texas plant down since starting a scheduled maintenance in March.

VIDEO: Upward momentum in US refined vegetable glycerine market slows as market assesses easing lockdowns
By Lucas Hall 2020/05/15 HOUSTON (ICIS)--Watch Markets Editor, Lucas Hall, discuss why the upward momentum in US refined glycerine markets has slowed over the past week.

US IPA prices see declines as supply lengthens, demand stays strong
By Deniz Koray 2020/05/14 HOUSTON (ICIS)--Isopropanol (IPA) demand continues to be very strong in the US, although supply has increased in recent weeks.

PODCAST: Next steps for chemicals amid pandemic - ICIS advisory board
By: Will Beacham 2020/05/15 BARCELONA (ICIS)--In this special ICIS podcast, the European customer and editorial advisory board discuss the challenges their organisations or sectors have faced because of coronavirus.

The world might look different as we emerge from the lockdowns, and the chemicals industry has to prepare for this new post-virus reality.

In this podcast, they discuss:

- Impact of coronavirus through 2020
- Longer-term structural changes to industry and markets
- Can chemicals emerge stronger from this unprecedented disruption?

Click on the headline or scroll up to access the podcast.

Europe plasticizers players unable to forecast amid poor demand, volatile market
By: Jane Massingham 2020/05/15 LONDON (ICIS)--European plasticizers players remain in the dark about future developments and describe complexities in a fragile market, with conditions open to change each day.

- Approaches to lifting restrictions vary

- Different levels of demand depending on application

- Spot prices under pressure

The complexities between different countries and customers and applications are making business decisions increasingly challenging for plasticizers players.

INSIGHT: Chemical distributors benefit from diversity through coronavirus lockdowns
By: Nigel Davis 2020/05/15 LONDON (ICIS)--Distributors generally had a reasonable first quarter financially although business in industrial sectors like automobiles and demand for products destined for the oil industry were impacted by at the time impending pandemic.

As with most industrials, the second quarter is likely to prove to be very different.

Industry leader, Germany's Brenntag, said that its oil and gas business has been badly affected by the oil price collapse and that anything connected to automotive has taken a noticeable hit.

Global economic toll of coronavirus pandemic could hit $8.8tr - ADB
By Pearl Bantillo 2020/05/15 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--The global economic toll of the novel coronavirus pandemic could hit as high as $8.8tr, which represents about 10% of world GDP, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said, as countries adopted prolonged lockdowns to contain the spread of the deadly flu-like disease.

Asia petrochemical shares rise as oil extends gains on hopes of better demand
By Pearl Bantillo 2020/05/15 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Shares of petrochemical firms in Asia were mostly trading slightly higher on Friday, with oil prices extending gains on hopes that demand will improve as more economies ease lockdown measures amid the coronavirus pandemic.

INTERVIEW: NACD prepares US distributors to emerge from coronavirus lockdowns
By Joseph Chang 2020/05/14 NEW YORK (ICIS)--The National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD) is guiding its members through the coronavirus crisis and preparing them to emerge from the US lockdowns, its president said on Wednesday.

‘Early signs’ of crude market rebalancing, petchems to gain long term - IEA chief
By: Jonathan Lopez 2020/05/14 LONDON (ICIS)--Crude oil markets are showing “early signs of rebalancing” as output cuts by OPEC+ countries kick in and some economies move to reopen, the executive director at the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Thursday.

Some petrochemicals end markets like those for medical equipment and disinfectants have staged a revival during the coronavirus pandemic, a trend that is likely to stay in the long term, said Fatih Birol.

“I wouldn’t think the petchems industry will be so badly affected [in the long term] as other sectors of the oil consuming sectors,” he said, speaking to reporters in Paris.

VIDEO: Europe R-PET grapples with virgin pressure, localised demand, sustainability
By: Matt Tudball 2020/05/14 LONDON (ICIS)--ICIS Senior Editor for recycled polyethylene terephthalate (R-PET) Matt Tudball discusses the main topics in the European market this week:

- On-going price pressure from virgin PET

- Demand dynamics become more regional

- What is happening with sustainability goals

Click on the headline to see the video.

INSIGHT: China attracts petrochemical exports as global demand sags; inventories rising
By Tahir Ikram 2020/05/14 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--China’s petrochemical industry faces yet another challenge - rising inventories and congestion at ports - as global supply far exceeds demand with the country’s own exports hit hard by the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

India offers relief to small enterprises under massive economic stimulus
By Priya Jestin 2020/05/14 MUMBAI (ICIS)--The first tranche of India’s massive economic stimulus package was meant to prop up the micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) sector of the giant emerging market economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Indian finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced on Wednesday evening a rupee (Rs) 3tr ($40bn) collateral-free loan scheme for the country’s 4.5m MSME units.

Asian petchem shares fall on virus worries, oil prices higher
By Nurluqman Suratman 2020/05/14 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Asian petrochemical shares fell on Thursday amid fresh fears about a second wave of coronavirus infections while oil prices were higher after US crude stockpiles unexpectedly fell.

US fuel ethanol spot prices widen as inventories fall, demand rises
By Alex Snodgrass 2020/05/13 HOUSTON (ICIS)--US fuel ethanol prices widened this week, as fuel demand continues to rise. The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) outlook for the current corn crop is for record high production, greater exports and larger ending stocks.

PODCAST: NACD President discusses how the industry is shifting to meet customer needs amid coronavirus
By Alex Snodgrass 2020/05/13 HOUSTON (ICIS)—As the coronavirus continues to hamper business, the president of the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD), Eric Byer, discusses the impact of the coronavirus and how the industry is shifting to meet needs and help the community, as well as the hurdles that remain.

US House reps introduce relief package that includes biofuels aid
By Alex Snodgrass 2020/05/13 HOUSTON (ICIS)-- Four members of the US House of Representatives introduced a coronavirus relief package that includes aid for the biofuels industry.

The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act) includes a Renewable Fuel Reimbursement Program wherein the US Department of Agriculture is authorised to provide 45 cents/gal of qualifying ethanol produced from 1 January through 1 May 2020.

US Q2 industrial ethanol contracts rise on booming demand, short supply
ByAlex Snodgrass 2020/05/13 HOUSTON (ICIS)--US Q2 industrial ethanol contract prices were assessed at a increase on Wednesday, amid booming demand and short supply.

US ABS demand to improve as automakers restart idled plants
By Adam Yanelli 2020/05/13 HOUSTON (ICIS)--Demand for US acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) is poised to improve now that North American automakers are restarting idled plants that were shuttered because of the coronavirus, but lower-priced imports continue to influence domestic prices.

Asia petchem shares mixed; oil falls amid worries over second wave of infections
By Nurluqman Suratman 2020/05/13 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Asian petrochemical shares were mixed while oil prices fell on Wednesday as worries about a new wave of coronavirus infections amid re-opening of economies continued to weigh on investor sentiment.

Philippines economy to contract 2.0-3.4% in 2020 amid pandemic
By Pearl Bantillo 2020/05/13 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--The Philippine economy is expected to contract by 2.0-3.4% this year, reversing a 6.0% growth in 2019, as the economic toll from the coronavirus pandemic could be as high as peso (Ps) 2.0tr ($40bn).
The cost of the pandemic on the southeast Asian economy is expected to be about 9.4% of 2020 GDP.

Malaysia’s economy set to contract after 0.7% expansion in Q1
By Nurluqman Suratman 2020/05/13 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Malaysia’s economy is expected to contract in the second quarter after growing by 0.7% year on year in first three months of 2020, reflecting the longer duration of coronavirus containment measures both globally and domestically.

The slowdown in the first quarter also sharply reverses the 3.6% year-on-year expansion in the fourth quarter of 2019, Bank Negara Malaysia said in a statement.

US chem shares fall despite rally in oil prices
By: Juhi Varma 2020/05/12 HOUSTON (ICIS)--US-listed shares of chemical companies fell on Tuesday despite a rise in oil prices amid Saudi Arabia’s decision to exercise deeper production cuts.

US jet fuel recovery uncertain as demand hits unprecedented lows
By: Alex Snodgrass 2020/05/12 HOUSTON (ICIS)-- US jet fuel demand is facing an uncertain recovery as the coronavirus has halted passenger demand around the world and passengers remain hesitant to fly until a vaccine is made, resulting in less travellers and sending financial pain to the airline industry.

Q2 will see worst impact on liquid fuels, effects will dissipate over next 18 months - EIA
By: Juhi Varma 2020/05/12 HOUSTON (ICIS)--Reduced economic activity due to the coronavirus has significantly altered supply and demand patterns, with crude prices at their lowest levels in 20 years, the US Energy Information Administration said in its latest short-term energy outlook on Tuesday.

North America, EMEA chemicals average earnings could fall 20% in 2020 - Moody’s
By: Tom Brown 2020/05/12 LONDON (ICIS)--Average chemicals sector earnings in North America and Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) could fall by around a fifth year on year in 2020 as a result of coronavirus disruption and the severe downturn expected for May and June, according to US ratings agency Moody’s on Tuesday.

The financial results season for the first quarter has revealed that demand for many producers in the two regions held up relatively well in the first quarter despite disruption in Asia Pacific at the start of the year and widespread lockdown measures in home markets in March.

The downturn projected by Moody's for the next two months is likely to be most keenly felt by commodity chemicals and producers of plastics for industrial applications, with capacity utilisation reductions or idled facilities expected to reduce excess supply and inventory levels.

Poland’s Orlen purchases IPA licence and basic design
By: Will Conroy 2020/05/12 LONDON (ICIS)--Poland’s PKN Orlen said on Tuesday it has purchased a licence and basic design from Badger Licensing for an isopropanol (IPA) installation.

If Orlen decides to go ahead with the construction of the installation it would become only the fifth company in the world to boast innovative IPA production technology, it added.

Applications in the packaging, medical and hygiene sectors – including for hand sanitizers – have seen strong demand for IPA amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has taken its price to a record high.

Europe PE margins drop week on week on higher feedstock costs
By: Miguel Rodriguez Fernandez 2020/05/12 LONDON (ICIS)--European plants producing polyethylene (PE) have seen their margins fall week on week due to higher feedstock costs, ICIS margin analysis showed on Tuesday.

In the week to 8 May:

- Naphtha values rose by more than 32%

- LPG values increased by 13%

High density polyethylene (HDPE) contract margins fell by more than 19%, co-product credits rose slightly:

LPG-based HDPE contract margins fell by 14%.

Low density polyethylene (LDPE) contract margins dropped by 14%, co-product credits increased slightly:

LPG-based LDPE contract margins fell by nearly 9%.

Europe naphtha prices rebound on Asia demand pull, crude but glut looms large
By: Shruti Salwan 2020/05/12 LONDON(ICIS)--European naphtha spot prices have revived from April lows on the back of improving crude oil futures, falling refinery run rates, certain demand pull from Asia, and feedstock economics favouring consumption rates at crackers.

However, price downward pressure persists as deals are being concluded at double-digit discounts for early June deliveries amid ongoing supply glut and limited demand.

That pressure was felt on Monday, with spot prices closing at $208/tonne CIF (cost, insurance, freight) NWE (northwest Europe) for H1 June deliveries, down from last week's close at $214-215/tonne CIF NWE.

China to waive additional tariff on 79 US products
By Fanny Zhang 2020/05/12 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--China’s Finance Ministry announced on Tuesday that it would exempt retaliatory tariffs imposed in the trade war on 79 US products for one year from 19 May 2020.

Importers can apply for refunding on tariffs already paid.

Asia petchem shares tumble on virus fears; oil up on Saudi output cut
By Nurluqman Suratman 2020/05/12 SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Asian petrochemical shares fell on Tuesday on fears over a second wave of coronavirus infections, while oil prices rose on Saudi Arabia’s surprise announcement of a further cut in production.

Spikes in coronavirus cases in China and South Korea after easing restrictions on people movement, are weighing on investor sentiment.

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