London — The European ethylene market remains well supplied and reports of tightness from certain pockets of Northwest and Southern Europe have been balanced out by impending imports from across the Atlantic.
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Supply is set to remain healthy in the European propylene market this week on production issues in downstream markets and imports. The European butadiene market's focus this week is on the development of demand in Asian markets following the Lunar New Year holidays. Some in the European market expect any uptick in post-holiday demand to be driven by the ABS market, rather than SBR.
Oxo-alcohols are expected to remain under pressure from weak fundamentals in the coming week. An absence of demand from the automotive and construction sectors for plasticizers and solvent applications of oxo-alcohols is expected to weigh on prices, while considerable market length is likely to persist on ample availability of Russian material in the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp region.
The European polyethylene market is also well supplied amid flat demand. PE is not only coming from domestic producers but also from those in the Middle East and US. A rollover settlement of ethylene for March has ensured flat price indications for polyvinyl chloride. PVC is also well supplied in the Turkish market though demand is predicted to strengthen.
In polypropylene, fundamentals are expected to remain stable, with supply and demand healthy. Market participants will discuss February contract prices, which are expected to roll over or rise or fall slightly from January on stable feedstock costs. Polystyrene demand is expected to remain strong as buyers seek to secure more volumes before styrene feedstock prices likely rise in March.
While demand for polystyrene is still high, sellers continue to recover margins after margin erosion in 2018 by raising prices above feedstocks. Buyers of PET will be looking to lock in margins from this week, with prices expected by many to rise on strong demand and higher feedstock prices.
Recycled food-grade pellets, which Platts assessed for the first time by last week at Eur1,350/mt FD NWE, will see particularly strong demand as companies boost efforts to include more recycled content in plastic packaging.
Benzene fundamentals are expected to remain unchanged in the week ahead, with considerable market length still weighing on prices. While demand has risen since the end of last year, the spot market is still relatively quiet. Support is only expected to kick in once the steam cracker turnaround season starts in the spring. The styrene market continues to look ahead to March and April cargoes, as market participants look to secure volumes ahead of global production outages.
Tightness in the toluene market is expected to continue, with production issues unlikely to be resolved until the end of February. European orthoxylene traders will be seeking arbitrage opportunities from the US Gulf this week after European supply became tight and demand shot up. Prices last week already rose $70/mt to $880/mt and if imports do start to arrive, prices may rise further since the US market also looks tight.
With market participants returning from the IMPCA industry event in Miami last week, attention will once again turn to the spot market for methanol. The broadly stable supply and demand dynamics seen in recent weeks are expected to remain in place, only threatened by the possibility of continued disruption on the Russian-Finnish rail network, which could further hamper Russian methanol exports.
The European MTBE market is expected to remain mostly quiet this week, on weakness reported in gasoline market. The reduced factor -- a measure of relative strength between MTBE and gasoline -- since the beginning of last week will be the basis for a quiet and balanced market this week, sources said. Market participants expect trading activity to pick up towards the end of the month, ahead of the gasoline specification change to summer grade, when demand for components will rise.
Naphtha prices remained fairly steady last week, underpinned by only minor fluctuations in crude oil prices, which have moved below $62/b again.
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Fundamentally, while the strength of the naphtha market remains chained to the chronically weak gasoline environment in Europe, some hopeful signs are emerging; the Eastern complex has strengthened on delayed arrivals of cargoes loading in the Black Sea and differentials in New York Harbor have stepped up, meaning Europe now has an open arbitrages in both directions, which will help clear some of the length in the region.
Run-cuts or changes to the operating rates of secondary processing units are also expected due to the sustained weakness in Europe's gasoline margin. Limited refinery maintenance up until now, combined with seasonally and historically weak gasoline demand, has led to an oversupplied market in Europe, with little demand in regions like West Africa available to clear excess supply.
-- Staff, firstname.lastname@example.org
-- Edited by Jonathan Fox, email@example.com