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Asia's propylene-naphtha spread touches near six-week high on stronger propylene

Highlights

Propylene-naphtha spread at $332.75/mt

FOB Korea propylene at four-month high of $1,105/mt

Asia's propylene-naphtha spread touched a near six-week high Oct. 12 as China's mandated curbs on power consumption lifted domestic propylene prices, while benchmark C+F Japan naphtha saw volatility in crude markers as prices dipped day on day.

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The spread between FOB Korea propylene and C+F Japan naphtha cargo rose 44% on the week to $332.75/mt at the Asian close Oct. 12, Platts data showed. The spread was last higher Sept. 2 at $337/mt, S&P Global Platts data showed. This is above the typical breakeven spread of $250/mt.

China's mandated dual control on power consumption and production boosted domestic propylene prices over the weekend as buyers raised their inventory anticipating a supply shortage.

Firmer crude oil and other propylene-making feedstock aided the spot market.

The East China propylene price rose Yuan 1,100/mt from Oct. 7 to Yuan 9,000/mt ex tank price Oct. 12 , while the Shandong propylene price rose Yuan 1,600/mt to Yuan 9,700/mt ex tank price over the same period.

Chinese industry sources said that the government continued to be strict on its double control policy and there was little leeway for propylene producers to increase their run rates after the National Day holidays, as the country still faced lack of coal and other energy resources, Platts reported earlier.

"Many provinces face power cuts, and many propylene productions units are operating on reduced run rates, but the demand for propylene is still there because downstream polypropylene demand, buoyed by strong PP futures, is gaining traction and now there is a shortage of propylene," said a China-based trader.

FOB Korea propylene rose $130/mt week on week to $1,105/mt Oct. 12, Platts data showed.

Meanwhile, the olefin producers' margin for ethylene production was weak, as it narrowed $3.375/mt week on week and $18.625/mt month on month to $387.75/mt at the Asian close Oct. 12. This remained above the breakeven level of $350/mt for non-integrated producers and is likely to support the high cracker run rates, market sources said.

Volatility in crude markers saw benchmark C+F Japan naphtha fall $1.125/mt day on day but rise $28.375/mt week on week to $772.25/mt at the Asian close Oct. 12, Platts data showed. The mixed picture was also reflected as the CFR Japan naphtha physical crack against front-month ICE Brent crude futures narrowed $0.975/mt day on day, but rose $12.025/mt week on week to $142.475/mt at the Asian close Oct. 12, Platts data showed.

Cracker feedstock demand for naphtha was also tepid as prices of LPG eased on the day. This narrowed the propane-naphtha spread $10.375/mt on the day and $54.875/mt on the week to $99.75/mt at the Asian close Oct. 12, Platts data showed. LPG typically becomes economically viable as a steam cracking feedstock when its price is 90% that of naphtha, or lower.