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Singapore — The Asian olefins market is expected to receive firmer support this week due to turnaround season and tighter spot supply.

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Outlook on the aromatics market remained split this week, but the Asian toluene market is expected to gain strength given China's latest move to lower the value added tax, which would further spur consumption and imports.

OLEFINS

The Asian butadiene market closed $80/mt lower week on week for both FOB Korea and CFR China markers, with FOB Korea at $1,045/mt and CFR China at $1,080/mt. This was mainly due to ample supply and moderate demand. Going forward, the market is expected to be stable amid some restocking requirement from end-users, as well as turnaround season for some Asian and European buyers in H2 April.

The domestic and imported propylene market in China demonstrated a strong recovery last week, as Chinese buyers were willing to procure propylene after the spread between Asian polypropylene (raffia grade) and propylene widened to more than the typical break-even spread of $150/mt. Shandong propylene climbed Yuan 850/mt or 13% higher week on week to reach Yuan 7,400/mt after falling to Yuan 6,550/mt.

Asian ethylene is likely to remain firm this week, buoyed by concerns of tight supply, after a fire at the ExxonMobil Baytown, Texas, refining and petrochemical facility as well as a fire at Intercontinental Terminals Company's tank farm in nearby Deer Park over the weekend. Some Asian buyers of ethylene exports from the US may be affected by the fire.

POLYMERS

Asian low density polyethylene prices were stable this week amid thin trade. Some buyers held back purchases seeing the fall in ethylene prices, expecting the decline to be translated downstream into the PE markets.

Asian polypropylene was generally stable to higher in the week. Copolymer grades continued to remain snug on a general lack of Asian plant capacities that can produce these grades, while raffia grades in China remained stable amid thin trade as buyers were hoping for physical prices to follow the fall in futures.

AROMATICS

Asian PX prices were assessed $9.16/mt lower day on day at $1,103.17/mt CFR Taiwan/China and $1,084.17/mt FOB Korea Friday, tracking falling Chinese domestic purified terephthalic acid prices. Week on week, this represented a fall of $11.66/mt to the CFR Taiwan/China marker. Market participants attributed the fall in domestic PTA prices to an announcement by China to implement VAT cuts from April 1, in an effort to boost the economy by lowering the cost burden and stimulating sales.

For manufacturing sector, VAT will be reduced from the current 16% to 13%. As a result, trade participants believe domestic PTA prices should become cheaper from April onwards.

The Asian toluene market is expected to remain bullish this week given China's latest move to lower the VAT, as well as supply tightness in Southeast Asia coupled with a surge in demand. Domestic discussions in China has already begun for non-VAT cargoes for May, with most market participants already pricing in the effect of a lower tax rate.

The Asian MTBE market remains buoyed by economical blend margins in Asia as traders continue to expect tight gasoline supply in the region. On Friday, all three inter-RON spreads widened, indicating more lucrative blend margins. Moreover, with summer demand for gasoline beginning to kick in, gasoline blending demand is expected to remain healthy this week.

The Chinese methanol market was relatively steady. Trade sources said there were ample cargoes from Middle Eastern producers on offer for main ports in Southeast Asia.

INTERMEDIATES

Trade participants are generally positive about the demand outlook along the whole Asian polyester chain this week, especially in China. Nevertheless, market sentiment for Asian monoethylene glycol remained weak amid a supply glut. As for Asian purified terephthalic acid, some trade participants are likely to stay at the sidelines for April-forward cargoes, amid uncertainties in the commercial production of China's Hengli Petrochemical's new aromatics unit.

--Melvin Yeo, melvin.yeo@spglobal.com

--Edited by Norazlina Juma'at, norazlina.jumaat@spglobal.com