Europe benzene sentiment strong while styrene moves lower

16 April 2013 12:44 Source:ICIS News

Europe benzene sentiment strongLONDON (ICIS)--Strong forward sentiment amid cracker turnarounds is keeping European benzene levels steady-to-firm, sources said on Tuesday, despite heavy losses on crude and energy futures this week.

Spot values for April benzene have stayed above $1,300/tonne (€1,001/tonne) CIF (cost, insurance, freight) ARA (Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp) level, relatively stable from last week’s close, even as Brent futures dropped below $100/bbl on global economic concerns.

April bids and offers were at $1,300-1,320/tonne this morning following an unconfirmed deal on 15 April at $1,300/tonne. The market for May has held a steady $10/tonne contango over the current month, while June was talked even higher at $1,315-1,345/tonne CIF ARA.

Europe benzene had already started to see some upward gains last week on higher US numbers, although prices in the region have idled so far this week.

“A lot of it is down to the cracker turnarounds,” explained one downstream source. “Demand for benzene is not that great. It seems to be speculative, as it is the traders who are most active.”

Meanwhile, the European styrene market is still struggling with ample supply and weaker than expected demand, which has kept some downward pressure on spot values this week. Deals for April were done as low as $1,570/tonne FOB (free on board) Rotterdam last week, but bids are currently around $1,535-1,540/tonne.

“Demand is disappointing from a lot of different angles,” said one styrene trader. “PS (polystyrene), EPS (expandable polystyrene). UPR (unsaturated polyester resins) is okay but that is only a small sector.”

This was confirmed by one major EPS producer, who added that the market is reaching the point where EPS becomes comparative to alternatives such as Rock Wool.

“The sentiment from the buyers for the styrene CP [May barge contract price] will be down €20-30/tonne plus any movement in feedstocks,” the producer said.

($1 = €0.77)

By Truong Mellor