Price and market trends: May IPEX edges down on mixed price movements

16 May 2014 09:57 Source:ICIS Chemical Business

The May IPEX edged down following a combination of varying price movements across the three assessed regions, slipping by less than 0.1% from the revised April figure of 327.13*.

Of the three regions, prices in the US performed weakest, leading to a 1.1% reduction in the sub-index. Ethylene was the only petrochemical to register higher prices, which came on the back of news that the Evangeline pipeline would restart in the near future. The restart could enable olefin restocking in the Louisiana area.

Benzene prices fell for the second consecutive month, down by 3.0% in April. Polystyrene (PS) prices dropped by 2.7% as a result of the lower values for benzene, which is a key component in the production of styrene.

The Asian sub-index bounced back, by 0.5%, following last month’s poor performance but still stands at the second lowest in nine months. The big contributor to the improvement was a 7.3% increase in butadiene (BD) prices, which are also the highest gainer over the past month of the 12 petrochemicals assessed.

As mentioned in last month’s edition, the outlook for higher prices at the end of March were valid as exports to Europe and the US as well as shutdowns of BD units and naphtha crackers led to a decline in supply.

Polyolefin prices firmed despite a softening of both ethylene and propylene feedstock prices. Expected supply tightness, as turnarounds for both polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) plants, was the reasoning behind the price hikes.

In Europe, prices were negatively impacted by a slightly stronger dollar. Dollar-denominated price movements of note were the reduction in methanol, which was in line with falls in the other two regions, and the 0.9% recovery of styrene. Methanol values fell by 7.6%, with indications of ample supply in the region caused by imports from Asia. The European sub-index moved down by 0.1%.

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, paraxylene (PX), styrene, methanol, BD, polyvinyl chloride (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 April IPEX has been further revised from 327.13 to 325.99 following the settlements of March contract prices for ethylene, styrene, PVC in the US, styrene and PX in Asia and PX in Europe. The May index will be subject to further revision once April contract prices settle for PX, styrene and PVC in the US.

By Faheem Behardien