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NWE benzene moves sideways with buyers, sellers locked in stalemate over pricing

London — Market participants in the European benzene market are locked in a stalemate where sellers point to rising crude oil prices as justification for demanding higher prices, while buyers reference plentiful inventories in the region, leaving traders sidelined.

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The European benzene market has been mostly stable since the beginning of April, despite volatility in the crude oil complex and increased offtake from downstream consumers. No spot deals have been reported in the European market since early last week.

The European spot price of benzene was assessed at $879/mt CIF ARA Tuesday, up $0.50/mt on the day. Bid-offer ranges were stable for May and June throughout the day at $860-$880/mt and $880-$900/mt, respectively.

"Benzene is long," one European trader said, adding that many traders were confused over the situation. "Nothing gets done, sellers are waiting and want to increase prices in line with oil," the trader said.

A UK-based market participant Tuesday was heard to be trying to place 2,000-3,000 mt of benzene for loading in the UK early in the second half of May.

"They can't find a buyer," a second trader source said. "The tanks are full and traders are not interfering [with the market]."

Additionally, a tender for the placement of 5,000-6,000 mt cargo of benzene by a Mediterranean-based seller was heard last week, with limited buying interest reported.

On Wednesday morning, bid-offer ranges for May and June in Europe were heard at $850-$870/mt and $875-$895/mt, respectively, indicating pressure on European prices. On Wednesday morning, the FOB Korea marker slipped $3.66/mt to $874.67/mt following a fall in US spot prices. June US benzene slid 4 cents/gal to be assessed at 298 cents/gal ($891.02/mt), on healthy supply in the US Gulf region.

--Thordur Gunnarsson,

--Edited by Jonathan Fox,