HOUSTON (ICIS)--US-listed chemical stocks rose sharply on Friday following a report that a hospital is seeing positive results from an experimental drug for the coronavirus (Covid-19).
The publication STAT reported the early test results of Gilead Sciences’s drug Remdesivir.
Meanwhile, statements from US President Donald Trump raised the prospects of parts of the US ending their lockdowns. The lockdowns have limited the spread of the coronavirus at the expense of the economy.
The gains among chemical shares exceeded those of the stock market, as shown in the following table.
|Dow Jones Industrial Average||24,242.49||704.81||2.99|
|Dow Jones US Chemicals Index||511.39||20.37||4.15|
|S&P 500 Chemicals Industry Index||518.13||21.52||4.33|
The table below shows the US-listed companies followed by ICIS.
|$ Change||% Change|
|Axalta Coating Systems||18.31||1.68||10.10|
Tronox's shares rose the most following an announcement that adjusted first-quarter earnings should rise by 22%.
Friday's rally broke a string of declines among chemical shares that followed the drop in oil prices.
Oil futures have fallen during much of the week as concerns grew that a recent agreement to cut production will be too small to offset the fall in demand caused by the coronavirus.
Oil prices are important to the chemical industry because prices for chemicals and plastics tend to follow them with a six-month lag, according to the ICIS Petrochemical Index (IPEX). The index tracks 12 major petrochemicals and polymers.
For US chemical producers, lower oil prices can shrink their margins because they rely overwhelmingly on ethane and other natural gas liquids (NGLs) as feedstock. Much of the world relies on oil-based naphtha.
US producers lose their cost advantage when naphtha prices fall in relation to ethane.
Oil prices broke their losing streak on Friday, with Brent futures closing at $28.08/bbl, up from $27.82/bbl.
Despite the increase, oil prices remain well below levels at the start of the year, causing US companies to lower activity.
Over the last five weeks, the number of working oil rigs has declined by 245, according to Baker Hughes.
In Europe, stock markets rose on the prospects of lockdowns ending.
Spot prices for key polymer polyethylene (PE) fell to an 11-year low.
In Asia, China published official figures for GDP growth in the first quarter, when the coronavirus outbreak brought the economy to a standstill; the fall of 6.8% quarter on quarter was the first since the country started quarterly records in 1992.
Focus article by Al Greenwood
Additional reporting by Jonathan Lopez
Thumbnail image by Shutterstock
Visit the ICIS coronavirus topic page for analysis of the impact on chemical markets and links to latest news.