Price and market trends: Europe acetone prices steady-to-soft, demand flat

06 December 2013 09:54 Source:ICIS Chemical Business

Demand for the product falters as producers destock ahead of the year-end

European acetone spot prices are steady-to-soft as demand remains flat and availability for the solvents market plentiful, sources said on 29 November.

“I’ve sold two whole trucks this week. It’s a bit lousy and I am done for the year,” said a trader.

The trader quoted €850-870/tonne ($1,149-1,176/tonne) FD (free delivered) NWE (northwest Europe) as a market price for business that week.

Speaking about its acetone business, a second trader said: “My feeling is that the prices are still at the same level: €800-820 FCA (free carrier alongside) ARA (Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp).

“People are expecting further decreases in December, but people will stick to current levels – bringing prices down will not influence the demand.”

Acetone spot prices have been declining gradually in recent weeks because of dwindling demand and the need to destock ahead of year end, but sellers have been reluctant to reduce prices because, regardless of acetone’s value, it will not create a surge of orders.

One producer said: “There is no point and we will not drop our prices. It simply won’t make our customers buy any more than they already need to.”

A second producer echoed this, saying it was staying “ridged” on its offers.

“We are staying ridged on our offers. Acetone for December will be around €850/tonne. You can’t generate new demand,” the producer said.

Meanwhile, a major consumer of acetone for the production of MMA (methyl methacrylate) said it was reducing its acetone demand in December.

“We are reducing our acetone demand in December as a result of poor feedstock supply. We will be buying less acetone,” the buyer said.

Attention was turning to the prospect of a steep increase in the feedstock December benzene contract price, particularly among phenol buyers and sellers.

“An increase in December on benzene will kill the market. Maybe it’s not so bad for the [phenol] producers but downstream derivatives – this is a disaster,” said a major buyer of phenol.

Acetone is a by-product of phenol. For every tonne of phenol made, 0.62 tonnes of acetone is produced.

A major phenol and acetone producer said it would be reducing its operating rates further again in December.

“Basically, the main topic is developments on the benzene side. Prices have increased rapidly. We are reducing production according to demand – we will run at low rates and run with as low stocks as possible,” the producer said.

By Julia Meehan