Singapore — With markets reopening this week after the Lunar New Year holidays, participants in most markets are anticipating restocking activity will spur a price uptick, although high inventory levels of some products could lead to pockets of selling interest.
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Activity in the Asian butadiene market was thin across Asia last week and prices were largely unmoved by Lotte Chemical's unplanned plant shutdown in Yeosu, South Korea.
Lotte shut its Yeosu cracker and associated 130,000 mt/year butadiene unit late Thursday due to an electrical failure, S&P Global Platts reported.
However, the potential impact on supply of the outage was balanced by continuing indications of excess inventory in Japan.
Market activity is expected to pick up this week, with a possible weakening seen in butadiene prices. However, if Lotte's restart were to prove unsuccessful, there could be a slight strengthening in prices.
In the propylene market, spot activity for both imported and domestic cargoes in China was expected to pick up this week.
Demand for domestic propylene was reported to be stronger as Chinese end-users typically buy in smaller lots, with preference for prompt arrival material for use as feedstock.
Some Chinese buyers were already looking for imported cargoes on Monday as supply is expected to be tighten in east China ahead of large propane dehydrogenation plant operator Ningbo Haiyue shutting its 600,000 mt/year plant for 30 days on March 1.
Ethylene prices were already seen to be trending higher on Monday, with deals concluded at higher levels than last week. Market sources had earlier noted that demand could emerge in China after the holidays for ethylene oxide following recent EO capacity expansions, and for styrene, with firm margins supporting production.
Fundamentals in the Asian benzene market kept sources guessing Monday as to how prices would move this week. Prices were supported last week by demand from the bullish US market, and the focus this week is on whether demand in China will pick up as market participants return after the holidays.
A market participant in China said demand hinges on whether domestic benzene prices in east China track last week's uptrend in the FOB Korea market, which was difficult to predict.
Despite upcoming turnarounds at aromatics units, structural length in the benzene market countered the possible tightening of supply.
Sentiment in the paraxylene market was bullish due to maintenance shutdowns, which were giving rise to a steep contango structure in the market.
Firm demand for PX also kept the PX-naphtha spread at a multi-month high of $615.88/mt at the Asian market close last Friday, the widest since October 24 last year when it was $617.46/mt. The margin is expected to remain healthy this week.
Trading was muted in the Asian styrene monomer market last week, with prices unchanged from the week before. While sentiment appears firm with the reopening of markets, sources said it was uncertain whether buying interest from downstream end-users would continue supporting styrene prices this week as EPS plants in China are expected to return to normal operating levels gradually.
High inventory levels of styrene in east China could also keep prices on a downtrend. Ballpark figures for east China inventory were heard at 300,000 mt Monday.
MEG demand is expected to remain weak this week amid an increase in vessel arrivals over the Lunar New Year holidays at Chinese ports, which were heard at around 370,000 mt. Total Chinese inventories already stood at 924,000 mt before the holiday. Prices are likely to remain weak as sellers offer discounts in a bid to reduce inventories.
Asian methanol markets look firmer this week on the back of unplanned shutdowns and scheduled turnarounds in Asia and the Middle East. Prices on a CFR basis across South Korea, Taiwan, Southeast Asia and India rose $6-$15/mt from the week before, while prices on a CFR China basis were steady on week at $292/mt last Friday due to thin trading during the holidays.
--Tess Tseng, firstname.lastname@example.org
--Edited by Wendy Wells, email@example.com