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Factbox: Sharply lower April export PVC offers illustrate demand uncertainty amid coronavirus pandemic

Highlights

Brazilian resins distributors worried on possible road control blockages that could affect and restrict the transport of polyethylene, polypropylene and PVC products, among other resins, Brazil's largest petrochemical distributor association, Adirplast said.

Houston — A US polyvinyl chloride producer slashed offers for April export volumes on Thursday, in an effort to entice buying as countries worldwide push stay-at-home orders and business shutdowns to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

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PVC is a construction staple closely tied with economic activity and GDP, as it is used to make pipes, window frames, vinyl siding and flooring and other products. Offers $100/mt less than March levels illustrated the potential ripple effects of such widespread shutdowns, which could squash demand.

PVC demand is normally strong in the spring lead-up to the peak summer construction season. However, the US Labor Department said Thursday that 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, highlighting job losses amid business shutdowns that is expected to slow construction plans.

Rob Stier, senior manager of Petrochemical Analytics at S&P Global Platts, said the PVC market was essentially looking at three weeks of no bids as buyers hope to work down whatever higher-priced inventories they have and wait for even lower prices -- particularly with construction activity stalling.

When the global financial crisis hit in 2008, export PVC prices fell to $510/mt FAS Houston. The 20-year low was $342/mt FAS in November 2001, after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US and during a recession year, S&P Global Platts data showed.

"Platts does not think we could get to that extreme, but it's certainly possible over the next two months," Stier said.

US spot ethylene prices also hit a new all-time low on Thursday, falling 3.6% to 9.875 cents/lb FD Mont Belvieu, the lowest level since Platts began assessing ethylene in 2004.

INFRASTRUCTURE

**Brazilian resins distributors worried on possible road control blockages that could affect and restrict the transport of polyethylene, polypropylene and PVC products, among other resins, Brazil's largest petrochemical distributor association, Adirplast said.

PRICES

Olefins

**Non-LST ethane up 16%, or 1.625 cents, to 11.75 cents/gal

**Spot ethylene prices fell to a new all-time low on Thursday of 9.875 cents/lb FD USG, down 3.6% from 10.25 cents/lb FD USG on Wednesday. The FD

Choctaw price held at 9 cents/lbSpot March polymer-grade propylene 18.625 cents/lb FD USG, flat, spot refnery-grade propylene 10 cents/lb FD USG, flat

**Non-LST propane up 1.25 cents to 26.75 cents/gal

Polymers

**Export LDPE prices held steady at $937-$959/mt (42.5-43.5 cents/lb) FAS Houston, with railcar pricing talked tight at 40 cents/lb range.

**Export HDPE blowmolding prices were stable at $717-$739/mt (32.5-33.5 cents/lb) FAS Houston, with railcar pricing discussed at 30 cents/lb.

**Export LLDPE butene prices were flat $717-$739/mt (32.5-33.5 cents/lb) FAS Houston Wednesday, based on railcar values talked at 30 cents/lb.

Aromatics

**US MTBE FOB USG prices fell 13% Thursday to 52.20 cents/gal, down from 64.81 cents/gal

**US methanol FOB USG prices decreased 1 cent to 70 cents/gal for March, while April methanol prices fell 3 cents to 68 cents/gal.

**March and April FOB USG toluene down 3 cents/gal to 103 cents/gal

**March and April FOB USG mixed xylenes flat at 98 cents/gal

**FOB USG paraxylene up $15/mt to $535/mt

**US benzene prices fell 5 cents/gal Thursday to 108 cents/gal DDP USG for March and April.

**US styrene was flat at $425/mt FOB USG for March and April.

**USGC standard naphtha barge prices rose 2.9% on Thursday to 35.50 cents/gal, up from 34.29 cents/gal on Wednesday. USGC light straight-run

naphtha prices rose 2.5% to 39.75 cents/gal, up form 38.75 cents/gal.

**NYMEX April RBOB settled at 54.38 cents, down 0.30 cent from Wednesday.

**US export 2-ethylhexanol prices plunged $90/mt on the week Thursday to $750/mt FOB USG.

**US export normal butanol prices fell $30/mt week on week to $610/mt FOB USG in line with weaker global pricing.

**US acetic acid prices fell $144/mt to $450/mt week on week, in line with lower global methanol and petrochemical complex prices.

**US vinyl acetate monomer prices fell $164/mt on the week to $850/mt, in line with weaker acetic acid.

TRADE FLOWS

**US styrene monomer exports to key demand centers in Asia have renewed due to the widened spread between CFR China and FOB USG prices, following weeks of inactivity due to a less workable arbitrage, tradders and other market participants told S&P Global Platts this week. The FOB USG-CFR China spread widened by $163/mt in less than two weeks, from $48/mt February 28 to a peak of $211/mt March 23.

**The shutdown of Lotte Chemical's styrene plants at Daesan, South Korea, after a mid-March explosion forced downstream producers in Korea to seek overseas cargoes due to domestic suppliers' run cuts. US traders expected Lotte's styrene proudction to remain offline at least six months.