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Asia petrochemicals outlook, w/c Nov 25

Singapore — Term contract negotiations for 2020 would continue to be active in Asian petrochemical markets this week, which is expected to keep spot discussions thin.

Market participants would closely monitor naphtha feedstock price as the recent strength is likely to narrow petrochemical margins further.

AROMATICS

Paraxylene

Market participants are closely watching new paraxylene capacity to be started up soon in China. Zhejiang Petrochemicals plans to start up its new aromatics plant soon and market players are expecting more capacity and supply to come online in China that should drive prices further lower. The PX-Naphtha spread which has been falling steadily during the year stood at $237.71/mt Friday, which is a low for the spread in five and half years. The spread was last lower on April 28, 2014, when it stood at $232/mt.

Benzene

Spot benzene trading would likely to remain thin this week amid unclear freight rate situation for January after IMO2020 kicks off. Meanwhile, 2020 term contract negotiations were in full swing. The first of the 2020 contracts are expected to be concluded soon, with Taiwan's CPC to conclude its 2020 benzene buy tender. According to multiple market sources, the tender was settled at a mid-to-high single digit premium to the Weekly Mean of Platts Korea benchmark.

Styrene Monomer The weakness in styrene is expected to continue amid slow demand and ample supply, though inventory drawdowns caused by cargo delays may provide some support to styrene prices early this week. With firmer feedstock benzene and ethylene prices, styrene production margin is likely to remain negative on weak fundamentals.

OLEFINS

Spot ethylene price has been firming up for last few weeks but rising naphtha feedstock prices would likely prompt fresh talks on possible steam cracker operating rate cut this week. The CFR Japan naphtha price rose to a two-month high, which started pressuring steam cracker margins.

Currently, the spread between ethylene and naphtha is below $300-$350/mt breakeven spread, while falling propylene would likely slash steam cracker margins further.

Asian propylene market would likely remain bearish this week amid growing spot supply and lackluster demand. The FOB Korea propylene price was assessed at $800/mt last Friday, the lowest level since May 2017.

The Chinese domestic propylene supply remained popular with the domestic buyers who were hesitant to pick up imported materials given weak downstream market. In addition, demand from Southeast Asia is seen to be declining as most endusers managed to purchase their requirements for December.

On butadiene, the market would likely be supported this week by healthy demand from China. Planned startups of new butadiene plants were reported to have been delayed to the first quarter from December, which prompted some spot demand for December arrival business. However, such demand would likely be covered amid ample supplies. This week, around 1-2 cargoes are seen to be available to sell in the spot market for December loading from Taiwan.

POLYMERS

Polyethylene

Asian high density polyethylene was hovering at 11-year low last week and the current weakness would likely to continue this week. Market sources said the outlook was bleak as purchasing is expected to be slow as most converters had bought resin for the year-end festivities.

Polypropylene

Asian polypropylene price fell $10/mt day on day to $925/mt Friday, the lowest level since June 2016, pressured by high inventories. While some end-users had procured material for December, there would be a selling pressure from producers to close the books in the black, a trader said.

INTERMEDIATES

The Chinese methanol market is expected to trade higher this week as the headline-driven Chinese methanol futures market ride the upside on a potential extension in supply cuts by OPEC+, along with heightened market optimism that the US and China will resolve their trade differences soon. Upbeat US factory and services November data which came out over the weekend, also gave investors the boost they were looking for. US manufacturers registered a rise in new orders in November and there was a small upturn in the US' service sector as well. Chinese ex-tank prices at Jiangsu were trading Yuan 30/mt higher from Friday at around Yuan 1,935/mt in Monday morning trade.

-- Fumiko Dobashi, fumiko.dobashi@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Debiprasad Nayak, debiprasad.nayak@spglobal.com