Asian price falls hold back March IPEX

07 March 2014 14:23 Source:ICIS News

LONDON (ICIS)--Mixed price performances in different regions meant this month’s ICIS Petrochemical Index (IPEX) was relatively flat, falling by 0.1% from the revised February figure of 337.39*.

Following a strong February, the US regional sub-index was the best performer, rising by 2.4%. Even in this region, better price performance was not uniform across the IPEX petrochemical basket. The most significant increases were those to butadiene (BD), polystyrene (PS) and polyethylene (PE).

The overall polymer contribution to the US sub-index increased by 2.4%. PE prices rose strongly following production and logistics problems, while PS prices rose alongside benzene feedstock prices but polypropylene (PP) prices were down slightly. February polyvinyl chloride (PVC) contracts remain outstanding.

Reflecting bearish manufacturing sentiment, the Asia sub-index dropped by 1.8% to a six-month low. This dragged the overall IPEX down slightly, with PE being Asia’s poorest performer. PE prices fell because of significant inventories built up over the Lunar New Year period and anticipated large import volumes, particularly from Iran.

The only price to rise in the Asian basket was PVC, which was just 0.6% higher. All other prices fell, except paraxylene (PX) and styrene, where February contract prices are yet to settle. Asian olefin prices were down across the board while benzene and toluene prices both fell by around 3.5%.

Rising by 1.1%, the European sub-index presented a more confused picture and was helped by the impact of a weaker dollar. While propylene and BD prices were higher, ethylene prices fell by 2.5%. PP and PS prices rose but PE prices were lower. Stronger benzene, toluene and styrene prices were accompanied by a collapse in PX prices.

European PX prices fell the most of any price across the three regions, slumping by close to €90/tonne. A large part of this was due to continued weak export demand in the Asian polyester chain.

Published at the beginning of each month, the IPEX provides an independent indicator of average change in world petrochemical prices.

The IPEX product basket of 12 essential petrochemical products comprises ethylene, propylene, benzene, toluene, PX, styrene, methanol, BD, PVC, PE, PP and PS.

Dating back to January 1993, historical ICIS prices for these products in the US, western Europe and northeast Asian markets have been weighted by regional nameplate capacity to generate the monthly index value.

*The February IPEX has been revised from 337.29 to 337.39 following the January contract settlements for ethylene, styrene and PVC in the US and styrene in Asia. March’s index will also be subject to revision once the February ethylene, styrene, PX and PVC contracts settle in the US and the February styrene and PX contracts settle in Asia.

March_IPEX_Image march 2014

Receive regular chemical updates and download global and regional ICIS IPEX data here
View the full IPEX methodology click here

By Ciaran Healy