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Vietnam posts 5.3% Q3 GDP growth; Sept exports inch up 1.4%
Vietnam posts 5.3% Q3 GDP growth; Sept exports inch up 1.4%
SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Vietnam’s economy grew by 5.33% year on year in the third quarter, aided in part by improved exports in September, preliminary official data showed on Friday. The reading was higher than the annualized 4.05% expansion in the previous quarter but represented a sharp deceleration from the 13.7% pace recorded in the same period last year, the General Statistics Office (GSO) said in a statement. For the month of September, Vietnam’s merchandise exports rose by 1.4% year on year, reversing the 6.7% decline in August. For the first nine months of 2023, Vietnam’s average GDP growth stood at 4.24%. The Vietnamese government expects this year’s economic growth to be 6.5%, down from 8% in 2022. The growth last year was the fastest recorded since 1997.
US ADM and Syngenta sign MoU to collaborate on low carbon
      oilseeds to meet biofuel demand
US ADM and Syngenta sign MoU to collaborate on low carbon oilseeds to meet biofuel demand
HOUSTON (ICIS)–US Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Syngenta Group announced they have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to collaborate in scaling research and commercialization of low carbon oilseeds to help meet rising demand for biofuels and other sustainably sourced products. The agribusiness titan said the MoU envisions a situation by which ADM and Syngenta would leverage their existing capabilities to accelerate the research, processing and commercialization of new low carbon-intensity oilseeds, such as camelina, that are typically grown in the fallow period of a crop rotation. The companies noted that they bring broad capabilities to this effort with Syngenta have research and development strengths, which offer biotechnology support, seed treatments and biologicals that further reduce the carbon intensity of crops. It also has agronomic knowledge from a network of local, field experts combined with excellent farmer relationships. For its part ADM has a global scale and logistical expertise including unparalleled production and storage capabilities along with relationships with growers and customers spanning food, feed, fuel, industrial and consumer products. ADM and Syngenta said they envision fostering partnerships with additional companies to support the creation, commercialization and processing of these next generation oilseeds. “This exciting MoU with Syngenta demonstrates how we are working with partners to bring the full value chain together to support new seed technologies,” Greg Morris, ADM Agricultural Services and Oilseeds business president said. “It builds on our unique capabilities by creating a path to scale the processing of cover crops, a process we’ve already successfully piloted. We look forward to working with Syngenta to advance this work and continue to meet demand for sustainably sourced fuels and other products.” The companies said global demand for biofuels is expected to grow by 35bn liters per year over the 2022-2027 period, which represents an increase of 22%. “Syngenta is excited to join forces with ADM to bring more sustainable and profitable solutions to farmers,” Justin Wolfe, Syngenta Global Seeds president said. “Sustainability is a core enabler of our business strategy. We believe collaborations, such as this one, are important ways to drive quicker innovation that delivers higher yield potential while carrying a lower impact to our environment.” The companies expect to sign definitive agreements by the end of the year and said that they are already advancing important work together around growing and processing varieties.
Corpus Christi PET plant marks fourth US chem project hit by
Corpus Christi PET plant marks fourth US chem project hit by costs
HOUSTON (ICIS)–An integrated polyester plant being built by Alpek, Indorama and Far Eastern New Century (FENC) is the fourth chemical project to be hit by cost overruns. The three companies are partners in the Corpus Christi Polymers (CCP), which is building a project in Corpus Christi, Texas, that will produce purified terephthalic acid (PTA) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Earlier this week, the three joint venture partners decided to temporarily halt the project because of inflation as well as high construction and labour costs. The joint venture did not disclose the magnitude of the costs. CORPUS CHRISTI JOINS GROWING LIST OF COST OVERRUNSThe project in Corpus Christi is the fourth chemical project that reported significant cost overruns this year. The following lists the other three. The capital budget for the second commercial-scale plant of Origin Materials rose to $1.60bn from $1.07bn. Origin also is splitting the project into two phases, delaying the startup and reducing the scale of the plant. The project will produce renewable oils that can be processed into biofuels and feedstock that can be converted into a component used to make polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or polyethylene furanoate (PEF) Phillips 66 expects to spend $1.25bn to convert its San Francisco refinery in Rodeo, California, to produce renewable fuels, up 47% from an earlier estimate of $850m made in May 2022 The costs for an ultrapure sulphuric acid plant being built in Casa Grande, Arizona, have increased to $300m-380m, up 50%. The project, currently on hold, is being developed by Chemtrade Logistics and joint-venture partner Kanto Group REASONS FOR OVERRUNSCosts are rising in part because of a severe shortage of qualified skilled workers, which has contributed to higher salaries. Construction pay is rising at its fastest rate in two decades, said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), a trade group that represents companies that build infrastructure, industrial plants and other nonresidential construction projects. He made his comments in an interview with ICIS, which had earlier reported on the cost overruns hitting chemical projects. For construction materials, some shortages persist, such as for transformers, switch gears and other electrical equipment, Simonson said. Diesel prices have recently risen by their largest amount since 1990, contributing to construction costs. Recent tariffs that the US imposed on steel and other materials have set a floor on prices, Simonson said. As inflation cools, those tariffs will keep prices for those materials at an elevated level. SURGE IN MANUFACTURING CONSTRUCTIONAn incredible surge in US manufacturing projects has increased demand for construction labour and materials. The following chart shows the increase in construction spending for manufacturing projects. Figures are in millions of dollars. Source: US Census Bureau In July 2023, the most recent month for which data are available, spending in manufacturing spending rose by 71% year on year. Simonson listed some of the reasons behind the surge in spending. Semiconductor fabrication plants (fabs), other electronics projects Petrochemical plants and liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants Electric vehicles (EVs) and associated battery plants Projects intended to shorten and simplify supply chains by bringing manufacturing closer to customers Renewable energy and carbon-capture projects To qualify for many government incentives, projects need to contain a certain amount of materials made in the US. Consequently, companies are building more plants to produce those materials in the US
Brazil’s chemicals producer prices rise 1% in August ending
      year-and-a-half downturn
Brazil’s chemicals producer prices rise 1% in August ending year-and-a-half downturn
SAO PAULO (ICIS)–Brazil’s chemicals producer prices rose by 1.02% in August, month on month, ending an 18-month long downturn, the country’s statistical office IBGE said on Thursday. Year on year, however, chemicals producer prices were 30.75% lower than in August 2022. Plastic and rubber producer prices fell by 0.56% in August, and by 7.04% compared with August 2022. Brazil’s overall industrial producer prices rose by 0.92% in August, after six months of falls. Year on year, they stood 10.51% lower than in August 2022. Much of the increase, according to IBGE analysts, could be attributed to the depreciation of the real during August, making imports into Brazil more expensive for industrial players. As of Thursday, the Brazilian real (R) was trading at $1:R5.06. In July and preceding months, the real had been strengthening and went as high as $1:R4.72. “This greater spread of positive variations [in producer prices] is in line with the 2.1% depreciation of the real against the dollar, which has not occurred since March, and which raises the prices of both what we import and what we export,” said Alexandre Brandao, IBGE’s head for the Industirial Producer Prices (PPI in its Portuguese acronym) index. To compile the PPI, IBGE tracks the average change in sales prices received by domestic producers of goods and services at the factory gate. It surveys around 2,100 companies about their prices, excluding costs for taxes, tariffs, and freight.
Argentina’s output falls in July, cabinet launches favourable
      dollar rate for oil, gas exporters
Argentina’s output falls in July, cabinet launches favourable dollar rate for oil, gas exporters
SAO PAULO (ICIS)–Argentina’s economic output fell by 1.3% in July, year on year, but posted an increase of 2.4% compared with June, the country’s statistics office Indec said this week. Agriculture, still reeling from a historic drought which hit Argentina’s grain exports hard, and manufacturing posted falls in output in July, year on year, of 14.0% and 3.7%, respectively. Month on month, however, economic activity rose by 2.4%. July’s economic indicators come after Indec confirmed earlier this month the economy contracted by 4.9% in the second quarter, year on year. CRUDE DOLLARWhile Argentina’s economic woes continue rising the Argentinian government launched this week the ‘Vaca Muerta dollar’ to let the country’s key oil sector enjoy more favourable peso exchange rates for the next two months. Vaca Muerta is Argentina’s vast oil and gas field in Patagonia. With the measure, the state would also increase its revenue by around $1.2bn, said Massa, as the country is in dire need of dollar reserves. The experiment would follow the example of the ‘soy dollar’, which also allowed agricultural exporters to have more favourable exchange rates. With inflation running at nearly 125%, Argentina has tight control of the official exchange rates, but it can also favour certain economic sectors. For the next two months, oil and gas exporters will be able to exchange 25% of the value of their exports using the cryptocurrency CYCLEAN (CCL) exchange rate to convert their dollars into pesos. The CCL rate offers the oil sector about 763 pesos per dollar, or more than double the value of the official rate, which stands at around 350 pesos per greenback. “We made the decision to recognise 25% of what [energy companies] export and bring to Argentina to invest using the CCL value so that they increase investment levels over the next 60 days in the oil and gas sector,” said Argentina’s economy minister, Sergio Massa. Massa is also the candidate of the governing party for the general election on 22 October, but open primaries held in August showed his chances to renew mandate are slim, with opposition candidates performing strongly. The new government-mandated favourable dollar rate adds up to a long and maddening list of informal dollar rates currently circulating in Argentina; financial daily Ambito Financiero keeps daily track of them here.
EPCA ’23: Chems industry needs greater transparency to
      attract new talent
EPCA ’23: Chems industry needs greater transparency to attract new talent
VIENNA (ICIS)–The chemicals sector needs to be willing to be more transparent despite the risk of attracting criticism if the sector wants to attract the next generation of talent, an academic said on Thursday. Greater openness and willingness to engage in the public conversation around issues such as sustainability, waste, and the green transition is necessary to alter the perception of the sector among new graduates considering career opportunities, according to Andy Mount, dean of research and strategic partnerships at the University of Edinburgh’s school of chemistry. “[If an] area is rife with controversy, the tendency can then be to take a step back,” he said, speaking on the closing day of the 57th annual European Petrochemical Association (EPCA) meeting, taking place in Vienna, Austria. A willingness to engage more in difficult conversations about perceived environmental impacts of petrochemical products is undercutting the impact of messages about gains in sustainable materials, electric vehicles and green fuels, he said. The fact that the chemicals sector has also attracted controversy around microplastics, waste pollution, and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) can make players reticent to speak out too said Uta Schulz, head of human capability future at BASF. “There is a lot of communication happening, the question is whether it is reaching the relevant [spaces], said said Uta Schulz, head of human capability future at BASF. “Are we shying away because we know we are part of the problem? Because if we say things loud then [it could result in criticism],” she added. “We’re very hesitant to tell the world what we’re working on,” added Janne van Gisbergen, a static equipment engineer at ExxonMobil, also speaking at the panel. The EPCA conference runs between 25-28 September.
INSIGHT: Polyurethanes see new demand from EVs, eye
INSIGHT: Polyurethanes see new demand from EVs, eye sustainability
SAN ANTONIO (ICIS)–Electric vehicles (EVs) are creating demand for new applications for polyurethanes that go beyond acoustics, and they represent one of the ways the industry is responding to increased interest for more sustainable products. Sustainability was one of the main themes of the Polyurethanes Technical Conference, the marquee event of the North American industry Exhibitors at the conference noted an increased interest in renewable content The finalists for the Polyurethanes Innovation Award all featured sustainability EVsEVs have requirements that are distinct from automobiles powered by internal combustion engines, and those requirements are opening up new applications for polyurethanes. One example is the cover for the EV’s battery, said Pavneet Mumick, global vice president of technology and innovation, Huntsman Polyurethanes. He made his comments on the sidelines of the Polyurethanes Technical Conference, hosted by the Center for the Polyurethanes Industry (CPI). Another is battery cell potting, also known as battery cell encapsulation, he said. Each battery in an electric vehicle is made up of hundreds of cells, according to Huntsman. In potting, the battery enclosure is filled with polyurethane foam to protect the cells from vibration and shock. The foam also forms a seal, which protects the cells from moisture, corrosive agents and solvents. Acoustic foam is another growing application for polyurethanes in EVs. Electric vehicles generate different sound frequencies because they lack internal combustion engines, said Jan Buberl, Huntsman vice president polyurethanes Americas and global propylene oxide (PO)/methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE). Dampening different frequencies require different foams, he said. SUSTAINABILE STRATEGIESThe use of polyurethanes in EVs reflects a larger trend of customers’ increasing interest in sustainability. In some cases, that interest lies in end markets such as EVs or energy efficient buildings and appliances. In other cases, it is reducing the carbon footprints of their products by using materials made from renewable or recycled feedstock. To respond to these trends, polyurethane companies need to work with their customers as well as their suppliers, who can supply them with renewable and recycled raw materials. “The whole value chain has to work together,” Mumick said. “It is becoming more front and centre.” Companies are taking a three-pronged approach, said Bradford Beauchamp, CEO of Carpenter. The first involves the raw materials that polyurethane companies use to make their products, he said. The second prong is designing materials to make them easier to re-use. The third prong addresses the fate of products after they are used to make sure they are recovered. SUSTAINABILITY AT POLYURETHANES CONFERENCEThis increased interest in sustainability is being reflected in the Polyurethanes Technical Conference. The event has seen a surge in papers about sustainability, said Lee Salamone, senior director of the Center for the Polyurethanes Industry. Debbie Mielewski, a retired technical fellow of sustainability at Ford Motor, made an encore appearance as the conference’s keynote speaker. Her debut, in 2019, was one of the first times that the conference’s keynote speaker focused on sustainability. SUSTAINABILITY AND INNOVATION AWARDThe conference’s Polyurethanes Innovation Award often highlights trends in the industry. In previous years, winners were connected to hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs). This year, the trend is sustainability. Sikaforce-840 L07, developed by Sika, addresses many of the challenges of electric vehicles, said Rifat Tabakovic, Sika research and development lab manager. The product is a two-component polyurethane adhesive that can bond composite or coated metal components. The winner of the award, Wanhua’s WANNATE 131FC, is a binder based on polymeric methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI). It is used to make moulded wooden pallets. These pallets are made with wood waste, agriculture residues and other wastes, and they can be recycled to make new moulded pallets, said Timothy Chaffee, business director at Wanhua. The Wanhua binder does away with the need to use urea formaldehyde resins. EXHIBITORSIn the exhibition hall, a large number of booths showcased renewable products. Palmer, a US producer of derivatives based on cashew nutshell liquid (CNSL), has seen heightened urgency among companies trying to increase the renewable content of their products, said Mike Magee, sales manager – polyols. About three or four years ago, Palmer would typically talk to companies’ sustainability officers, he said. Now they talk to their technical directors, who are searching for ways to lower their products’ carbon footprint. That increased interest in renewable content does not allow producers to skimp on the performance of their renewable materials. “No one buys renewable products because they’re renewable,” Magee said. “They buy them because they work and because they’re cost effective.” The renewable content is included free of charge, he said. Acme-Hardesty, a distributor of palm-oil and castor-oil based derivatives, has seen more interest in renewable products from companies and from government. “There is no question about it. Everyone is thinking about sustainability and bio-based content,” said Bryan Huston, vice president of polyurethane coatings, adhesives, sealants and elastomers (CASE) and distributor solutions for Acme-Hardesty. Automobile companies are interested in increasing renewable content for top coats, insulation and acoustical foam, he said. Other inquiries are coming from producers of furniture and mattresses. More federal agencies of the US government are trying to incorporate sustainability into their purchasing decisions, Huston said. Cardolite, which produces CNSL-based polyols and diols, has not noticed an increase in interest at its booth during this year’s conference, said Yun Mi Kim, senior technical marketing director. But the conference has attracted more exhibitors featuring bio-based products. Cardolite did experience a surge in interest during the coronavirus pandemic, when companies could not obtain their usual raw materials because of supply disruptions. In years past, these companies were reluctant to use Cardolite’s chemicals because it would require additional testing involved with adopting a product based on a different chemistry. Even though Cardolite’s materials offered similar performance, that was not enough to win over those companies. That changed with the coronavirus pandemic, which disrupted supply chains and left those companies without access to their typical feedstock, she said. The companies ran the tests and adopted the material.  Many of them continue to use Cardolite’s products. Polyurethanes are made with isocyanates and polyols. The Polyurethanes Technical Conference ran from Monday through Wednesday. Thumbnail shows electric vehicles. Image by ADI WEDA/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock Insight article by Al Greenwood
EU economic confidence drops in September on gloomy consumer
      outlook despite industry gains
EU economic confidence drops in September on gloomy consumer outlook despite industry gains
LONDON (ICIS)–Wilting consumer confidence weighed on economic sentiment in Europe in September, according to the latest data from the EU Commission on Thursday. The Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI) fell by 0.4 points in the EU to 92.8 points, and by 0.3 points to 93.3 points in the eurozone, as deteriorating expectations from consumers offset minor gains in industry confidence. September marked the second month in a row that consumer confidence deteriorated, dropping 1.6 points on the previous month as respondents assessed their household’s past and future financial situation as worse. Intentions to commit to major purchases also declined. While current levels of order books appeared worse, industry confidence rose 0.3 points on the previous month as production expectations improved for the second consecutive month. Stocks of finished goods were viewed more in line with normal levels. Export orders were assessed as broadly stable, and past production levels improved on the previous month, although this data was not included in the overall reading for industry confidence. A decline in the construction sector supported the general dwindling confidence in Europe, dropping 0.8 points on August’s level. Both levels in order books and employment expectations contributed to the pessimistic sentiment, with 28.6% of managers citing labour shortages after tracing marginal gains (up 0.3 points), keeping the reading at a high level. Poor demand also diminished confidence, rising 0.7 points to settle at 28.8% – the highest reading since July 2020. Although shortages of materials and equipment rose 0.7 points, the figure remained significantly lower than averages over the past two years, settling at 9.9%. In contrast, while financial constraints for the construction sector fell by 0.7 points, that remained above the long-term average at 9.9%. Retail registered a 0.4 point decline in confidence on the previous month on worse expectations of the past business situation, but were more optimistic about the expected business situation, while stocks remained stable. Confidence in the services sector remained relatively stable, dropping by 0.1 points as poor views of past demand were almost negated by more optimistic expectations. In contrast to the wider economic sentiment indicators, the employment expectations indicator (EEI) gained 0.6 points in the first lift since February, as gains are expected in the services sector. Selling price expectations tracked a further decrease but remained elevated in the services and trade sectors. For industry and construction, selling prices stayed at their long-term average levels, while consumer price expectations for the coming 12 months increased, and perceptions of the past year remained stable at high levels. The Economic Uncertainty Indicator (EUI) rose by 1.6 points to 21.1 points, spurred on by consumer doubts over their future financial situation and uncertainty in the services, industry and trade sectors. Uncertainty in the construction sector decreased. Front page image shows residential construction in Korb, Germany (image credit: Lilly/imageBROKER/Shutterstock)
UK August car production down year on year as makers switch
      focus to EVs
UK August car production down year on year as makers switch focus to EVs
LONDON (ICIS)–UK car production fell by 9.7% in August year on year, partly impacted by plant maintenance and upgrades as manufacturers prepare for the next generation of electric vehicles (EVs), the country’s industry trade group said on Thursday. August is also typically the smallest volume month of the year with variable summer shutdowns, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Mike Hawes, the group’s chief executive, said the fall in output was not a cause for concern. “With car manufacturers taking advantage of the summer holiday season to upgrade their plants, this is part of an ongoing commitment to deliver the next generation of electric vehicles, with a record number of these models already being made.” Of the 45,052 units produced overall in August 37% were electrified vehicles, marking a 14th consecutive monthly gain for EVs. “Since January, car makers have turned out 216,922 of these crucial vehicles, an uplift of 84,310 on the previous year, evidence of the UK’s capability to be a leader in zero emission production,” the trade group said in a statement. The overall decline in August followed six months of growth, with production lower for both the home and export markets.
Asia petrochemical trades slow down ahead of China holidays;
      headwinds persist
Asia petrochemical trades slow down ahead of China holidays; headwinds persist
SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia’s petrochemical markets have slowed down ahead of the long holiday in the Chinese markets, with concerns over long-term demand continuing to weigh on sentiment despite recent gains. NE Asia ICIS Petrochemical Index falls for the first time in 12 weeks Strong oil prices push up production cost Strong pick-up in China post-holiday demand unlikely Pre-holiday restocking waned from mid-September, stepping on the brakes of strong crude-led gains in petrochemical prices in recent months. China will be on holiday from 29 September to 6 October for the Mid-Autumn Festival and the week-long National Day celebration. Upbeat August data out of China, along with stimulus measures for the property sector, provided a recent lift to sentiment, but global macroeconomic uncertainties abound. “The recent improvement in several of China’s economic activity indices has convinced many market participants that China’s economy has already bottomed out, thanks to the raft of policy measures that have been rolled out. However, we remain cautious,” Japan’s Nomura Global Markets Research said in note. In the fourth quarter, rising prices of energy and the general commodity markets, slowing momentum from the services sector and fading summer travel demand in China could weigh on the Asian chemical markets. The ongoing property crisis in the world’s second-biggest economy and the Russia-Ukraine war remain as major headwinds on petrochemical trades. NE ASIA PETCHEM INDEX SNAPS 12-WEEK GAINSIn the week ending 22 September, the weekly ICIS Petrochemical Index (IPEX) for northeast Asia slipped by 1.0% year on year, the first contraction in 12 weeks as China export discussions slowed down. The index tracks price movements of 12 major petrochemicals and polymers. In the aromatics market, benzene prices in Asia trended lower in the week as boost to trade and consumption from China’s latest stimulus measures in early September tapered off and as oil prices cooled off from recent highs of around $95/bbl. A series of stimulus measures were announced in early September for China’s ailing property sector, including reducing down payment requirements for first- and second-time home buyers and lowering interest rates for existing mortgages. Oil prices were trading higher on Thursday, with US crude breaching $95/bbl and Brent trading at above $97/bbl, as the sharp decline in US crude stocks heightened concerns about tightening global supply in the last quarter of 2023 amid prolonged output cuts by Saudi Arabia and Russia. In the previous week, Brent crude had crossed $95/bbl on 19 September, pulling up spot prices of selected petrochemicals, including propylene and acrylonitrile (ACN). Concerns that central banks at major economies will keep interest rates higher for longer, meanwhile, continue to temper gains across commodities markets. In the regional paraxylene (PX) market, prices were being weighed down by weak fundamentals in the downstream purified terephthalic acid (PTA) and polyester markets, with players doubting a strong demand recovery is possible up to year-end. The fourth quarter is typically a lull period for downstream polyester and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) markets, which, along with a weak global macroeconomic environment and poor consumer spending, will likely keep demand for PX soft. Asia’s polyester export discussions weakened in the week ending 26 September, weighed down by falling feedstock prices and cautious buying sentiment. Trades are expected to be subdued during the China holidays. For olefins, ethylene prices have been stable so far in the week as weak downstream markets offset cost concerns and fewer deep-sea supply. Northeast Asia’s spot ethylene demand for November-delivery regional supply is expected to increase, as exports from the US are expected to dwindle next month due to a tightly shut arbitrage window. In the downstream PE market, demand in southeast Asia was deemed persistently weak amid slowing economic growth, sluggish consumer spending and rising inflation. Many downstream PE converters across the region remained cautious, deeming recent price hikes for October could not be sustained without demand support and a corresponding increase in prices of finished plastic goods. For fatty alcohols, a widening buy-sell price gap is hampering spot deals as demand for home personal care products shrink amid the global economic downturn, but suppliers are upbeat about China’s post-holiday demand. In the ethyl acetate (etac) market, spot discussions in Asia have tapered off in pre-holiday trade amid faltering upstream acetic acid sectors, with a bearish fourth-quarter outlook. In the related butyl acetate (butac) market, constrained spot supply amid plant turnarounds were supporting prices. CHINA MARKET PLAYERS CAUTIOUS Local industry players in China are turning cautious as more than 3m tonnes/year of new capacities are expected to come on stream in the fourth quarter. Polypropylene (PP) prices have been on an uptrend since late January, supported by higher costs and improved demand from China’s re-opening after the pandemic. More than 3m tonnes/year of new PP capacities are expected to come onstream in Q4 in China following the end of the traditional peak demand season earlier in the third quarter. For methanol, prices in the futures market shed 7.9% in the past week, weighing down on the import market, as players turned more cautious, after the market had a bullish run in the previous week. Expectations of tight supply in the fourth quarter and steady end-user consumption, however, could provide some support to the market. In the general purpose (GP) moulding grade polycarbonate (PC) market, the gains in import prices were largely driven by feedstock cost and not by demand. For fatty alcohols, China’s import demand is expected to pick up after the holidays. Currently, a widening buy-sell price gap in Asia is hampering spot deals as demand for home personal care products has shrunk due to the global economic downturn. For ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), slumping domestic prices have weakened import demand ahead of the holidays. China’s overall exports of goods are likely to remain depressed amid the global economic slowdown, while the country’s property sector is still in shambles. MIDEAST, S ASIA ALSO GRAPPLE WITH WEAK DEMAND Polystyrene (PS) markets in the Middle East and south Asia saw limited activity in the week ending 22 September, while uptake of October polyvinyl chloride (PVC) was dismal. PS offers from northeast Asia spiked following a surge in cost of feedstock styrene monomer (SM), which soared to a one-year high in the first half of September. With most regions in Asia seeing fundamentally weak macroeconomic conditions, PS demand from buyers was unable to keep pace with these increases, causing a wide buy-sell gap. In the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, sporadic deals were recorded in the week to 22 September, but most buyers were waiting for offers from a major regional supplier next week. For PVC, rising feedstock costs were deterring uptake of October cargoes, with initial higher offers from several Asian producers being met with lukewarm response from buyers. Focus article by Nurluqman Suratman Thumbnail image: Yangzhou Port in Jiangsu, China – 15 September 2023 (Source: Shutterstock) Additional reporting by Keven Zhang, Damini Dabholkar, Samuel Wong, Judith Wang, Seng Li Peng, Yeow Pei Lin, Izham Ahmad, Helen Yan, Helen Lee, Lucy Shuai and Melanie Wee
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