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Asian paraxylene/naphtha spread slips to 3-month low ahead of China's Golden Week

Singapore — The cash spread between Asian paraxylene and naphtha weakened to a three-month low Wednesday as plant maintenance dragged values lower ahead of China's upcoming National Day holidays, which has pared down spot demand for the aromatics product.

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Since the start of July, the spread between the CFR Taiwan/China paraxylene marker over the CFR Japan naphtha physical had been trading in a limited range of around $300-$351.67/mt.

At Tuesday's Asian close, the spread between the two narrowed to $296.63/mt, below the $300/mt mark, the slimmest since $288.17/mt on May 22.

Market sources said spot Chinese demand for paraxylene is likely to slow as downstream polyester plants typically reduce operating rates ahead of China's Golden Week holidays in October. Purified terephthalic acid producers are also likely to cut operating rates and slash offers in an attempt to clear inventory prior to the holiday, reducing demand for upstream paraxylene, market sources said.

There was a lack of clarity on the direction PX prices will take as both buyers and sellers are in a stand-off after the major settlement for September Asia contract price at $780/mt CFR Asia, a China-based trader said.

In Dalian, Hengli Petrochemical has scheduled a 15-day maintenance for the 2.2 million mt/year No. 1 purified terephthalic acid unit, starting mid-September.

Thereafter, from mid-October, Jiangsu Honggang Petrochemical Co. Ltd., will take the 1.5 million mt/year purified terephthalic acid plant in Lianyungang offline for a two-week maintenance. PTA maker Jiangsu Honggang Petrochemical Co. Ltd., is an affiliate of the Shenghong Group.

Meanwhile, firm underlying crude markers continued to support the physical CFR Japan naphtha benchmark on its steady uptick. CFR Japan naphtha was assessed at $493.125/mt at Tuesday's Asian close, having climbed for five straight trading sessions to stand at a month-to-date peak.

Fundamentals remained broadly unchanged for the Asian naphtha complex, as scheduled turnarounds at several steam crackers in the Far East during the fourth-quarter kept spot demand for paraffinic naphtha limited.

Separately, all eyes are fixed on the upcoming start up of Rongsheng's new paraxylene capacity at its integrated complex in Zhoushan Island. Its Zhejiang Petrochemical unit is expected to bring on stream 4 million mt/year of PX capacity later in the year, Platts reported previously.

--Regina Sher,

--Sue Koh,

--Edited by Norazlina Juma'at,