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Record high mixed-xylenes premiums supported by arbitrage opportunities

ARA toluene, MX spot prices drop below $700/mt amid competitive offering

London — The spot prices of toluene and mixed xylenes in the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp region have taken a dip to levels below $700/mt as competitive selling interest surfaced this week.

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The 5-30 day forward prices of toluene and MX were last assessed Monday at $679/mt CIF ARA, down $32.50 and $33 respectively on the day.

The bearish moves came as a trader was heard offering the products for March delivery at $680/mt CIF ARA.

But buying interest remained lackluster on both products, with no spot appetite heard for toluene, while MX was heard bid on a FOB ARA basis at a $74/mt premium over the March Eurobob swap. This put the bid's value at $649/mt on the day.

With demand weakening in the US and toluene buying interest for April there heard at levels around $700/mt, the arbitrage to the US was now shut, market participants said.

Trans-Atlantic exports were even more difficult to work from Europe amid the specification differences between the two regions, which added to the unfavorable arbitrage economics.

This made market sentiment bearish on toluene and MX, with traders expecting increased availability in Europe.

MX demand remains slim in Europe with numerous downstream PET and PTA producers in turnaround, which in turn took a toll on appetite for PX production.

Meanwhile, chemical distributors were cautious of toluene and MX spot procurement, expecting prices to cool off ahead.

Gasoline blending values on toluene and MX were heard at a premium of around $60/mt over March Eurobob, levels that did not attract any selling interest and added to the thin spot trading.

However, with benzene spot prices assessed Monday at $885/mt FOB ARA, toluene stood at a $206/mt discount to benzene.

This pushed toluene to benzene HDA conversion margins into positive territory, as a spread of around $200/mt is usually required to make economics work on the process.

It remains to be seen whether buying interest will gain momentum on toluene from HDA converters.

--Sam Hashmi,
--Edited by Jonathan Fox,