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Asia petrochemicals outlook, w/c Jan 7

Singapore — The Asian petrochemical markets were last week affected by a rebound in crude oil prices by 4.6% which saw some petrochemical market prices rise firmly as well. However, other markets remained quiet and sluggish in the wake of holidays and may only see an increase in activity in the week to follow.

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OLEFINS

The Asian butadiene market closed on firmer pricing last Friday, as concerns over supply issues and aggressively rising spot prices in China caused regional import indications to rise. Week on week, the CFR China marker rose $10/mt to $1,195/mt last Friday following domestic price increases in the wake of production issues.

Asia's ethylene market would likely remain bearish this week after a week-on-week fall of $60/mt to $870/mt CFR Northeast Asia last Friday, pressured by ample supplies in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. In Southeast Asia, some sources said around five to six spot cargoes were seen available. In Saudi Arabia, market participants are closely monitoring the results of a sell tender by Petro Rabigh. Petro Rabigh last week issued a tender to offering a 9,000 mt cargo for second-half January loading. Results of the tender are expected early this week.

POLYMERS

Asian linear low density polyethylene film prices rose $10/mt week on week to $1,030/mt CFR Far East Asia as market sentiment improved on rising crude and futures prices. While the broader polyethylene landscape is anticipated to be short, LLDPE is expected to be long in 2019 due to the startup of more LLDPE plants in the US and Asia, market sources said.

Polypropylene was stable week on week at $1,050/mt CFR Far East Asia on thin trade last week. Some traders were discussing moving cargoes from Vietnam to Latin America, seeing a price gap of more than $150/mt between the two regions.

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AROMATICS

Asian styrene monomer had a slow start to the year with the markers rising $25-$30/mt over the week to $1,001/mt CFR China and $951/mt FOB Korea Friday. The rise in prices were attributed to higher crude and benzene prices. Discussions were thin with mixed views among market participants. Trading is expected to pick up in the week with a clearer direction in the market.

Meanwhile, the isomer-grade mixed xylene market was long on supply at the moment, sources said last week, with the FOB Korea marker falling $11.50/mt week on week, while CFR Taiwan fell $15.50/mt. That was despite a rebound of $22.25/mt to $970.67/mt CFR Taiwan/China for Asian paraxylene prices.

Asian toluene rose $17/mt to $548/mt FOB Korea Friday, largely tracking the rise in East China domestic prices fueled by the need to stock up before the Lunar New Year Holidays in February. Market participants expect slight bullishness before the Lunar New Year festivities but most have largely held back on their sentiment due to volatility in crude oil prices and uncertainties in economic and political situations globally.

In the Asian MTBE market, while bearish sentiment is starting to abate as 92 RON gasoline cracks against ICE Brent crude oil futures rebound, trade participants are still wary that the market will remain amply supplied in 2019 on new MTBE capacities coming up in the region. The FOB Singapore marker was assessed at $564/mt Friday with the factor at 1.144.

INTERMEDIATES

Length in Asian methanol market is expected to prevail in the lead-up to the Lunar New Year next month, with buyers across Southeast Asia, India, South Korea and Taiwan being overstocked with products and buying interest was thin. In China, inventories at ports fell 4.17% week on week to 666,300 mt last Thursday and domestic methanol prices have stabilized over the past three weeks, prompting market sources to ponder if a floor had been reached.

An uptick in crude oil prices recently led to firmer domestic prices and while a few trades have been been concluded, market sources said Chinese demand is still weak and sentiment is likely to remain lukewarm till after the Lunar New Year.

Market sentiment is likely to remain bearish for Asian monoethylene glycol due to weak fundamentals. Inventories at the main ports of eastern China are around 800,000 mt. Despite improved buying interest from downstream polyester producers to stock finished goods before the Lunar New Year, support to MEG prices is limited, sources said, with the CFR China marker shedding $8/mt week on week to $625/mt on last Friday.

Nevertheless, volatility in upstream crude oil prices have lent uncertainties to the MEG market. In plant news, trade participants are watching out for the startup of Lotte Chemical's 700,000 mt/year plant in the US this week.

--Staff, newsdesk@spglobal.com

--Edited by Irene Tang, irene.tang@spglobal.com