Narrow arbitrage economics into China and the US Gulf Coast would likely keep the Asian benzene market under pressure this week, even as the FOB Korea benzene price marker inched down $3.50/mt week on week last Friday amid volatile crude oil futures.
The Asian styrene market is expected to continue treading cautiously this week, with Chinese end-users reluctant to actively seek out spot cargoes despite low inventory levels because of the spike in Asian styrene prices since mid-November.
Toluene meanwhile, would likely remain stable to firm amid anticipation that term levels for 2018 would be concluded at premiums of $4/mt to the Platts FOB Korea marker on a FOB Korea basis. Market participants are also awaiting South Korea’s domestic settlements that will set the price trend for the Asia toluene market in 2018. The FOB Korea toluene price marker fell $7.50/mt week on week last Friday.
Sentiment in Asia’s paraxylene market is seen remaining firm for the time being, with planned startups of new downstream purified terephthalic acid units. CFR Taiwan/China paraxylene prices were largely stable over the week, inching down just 67 cents/mt week on week to $910/mt last Friday.
In contrast, Asian olefins rose across the board last week, buoyed by firm demand. The CFR Northeast Asia ethylene price rose $10/mt week on week last Friday, while the CFR China propylene price increased $11/mt during the same period.
Demand for spot ethylene and propylene was firm last week, triggered by persistent production shortfalls due to lower run rates at methanol-to-olefins plants in China. The recent rise in prices may see more deepsea supplies, especially ethylene, head towards Asia.
While CFR China butadiene prices rose $10/mt week on week last Friday, a supply glut in North China pressured down the domestic market, as seen from domestic prices slipping Yuan 300/mt week on week to Yuan 9,500/mt last Friday.
METHANOL, MTBE Tight supply has pushed methanol prices higher, which would likely keep Chinese MTO plant operations at relatively low rates this week due to negative margins. But market sources said the near-term price increase would be limited as CFR China methanol prices were already hovering at 10-month highs.
Sentiment in Asia’s MTBE market sentiment would likely remain firm early this week, as other gasoline blending components such as toluene were fed into the gasoline blending pool and thereby tightening spot supply of these cargoes.
The CFR Far East Asia film-grade high density polyethylene price rose $20/mt week on week to a two-year high of $1,300/mt CFR Far East Asia Friday, driven by low inventories amid delivery delays notably from Iran. But market sources said general market sentiment would likely remain weak in line with planned capacity expansions.
In PVC, fresh offers for January are due to be announced in a few weeks time. Market sources said fresh January offers would likely be increased compared to December — possibly a rise of $10-$20/mt — mainly driven by firm demand from India. For December, negotiations finished with a $50/mt price decline compared to November.