Houston — US toluene values looked to remain strong this week as demandremained firm from the chemical segment.
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Toluene-fed chemicals saw continuedsupport as, despite declines on the week, benzene prices continued tosubsidize disproportionation margins. TDP margins posted the most significantdeclines, shedding near $71.50 to close Friday at near $123/mt. MSTDP marginsfell near $19 to close at near $99, while HDA margins were down roughly $39.50to near $91.50/mt, according to S&P Global Platts data.
December mixedxylenes prices were down about 3 cents on the week, closing Friday at 230cents/gal FOB USG and pressured to post further declines in the coming week.Derivative demand for mixed xylenes was limited amid recent length in the USparaxylene market. Mixed xylene's blend value rose about 5 cents on the weekto finish at near 215 cents/gal as sources reported blending material asderivative demand was limited.
While prices were under pressure, sourcesanticipated that mixed xylene's prices would see some support from paraxylenewith prices in the 220s cents/gal range. Prompt spot paraxylene prices weredown slightly on the week as market length added pressure. Prices shed $10 tofinish at $830/mt FOB USG. Sources reported an uptick in exports this pastweek with at least 30,000 mt leaving the US in November and another10,000 mt loading in early December.
After export polyethylene prices began trending lower last week, marketparticipants were eagerly anticipating new December offers.
Volumes for exporthave remained somewhat limited, sources said, noting that rail cars could beprocured, but not in great volumes. Trader sources were heard seeking railcars in the mid-upper 40s cents/lb range, while pricing was being seencloser to 50 cents/lb for most grades, per market feedback.
On the domesticfront, there have been expectations pricing could move lower in December afterproducers have worked hard to maintain the 10 cents/lb increases that havebeen implemented since later August when Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas Coast.Sources have suggested that most -- if not all -- of the post-hurricaneincreases could be out of the market by the end of January through market-widedecreases and potentially through non-market moves as producers and buyersfinalize contracts for 2018.
US export polyvinyl chloride prices for December were settled at$760/mt FAS Houston by at least two producers late last week, and marketparticipants looked for news on Shintech's negotiations for January pricing asa sign of an expected recovery next month. Prices have fallen 17.4% from apost-Hurricane Harvey high of $920/mt FAS Houston amid weak global demand, andproducers resisted pressure from traders to cut prices to the range of$740-$750/mt FAS Houston.
Market participants expect January pricing to begininching up, as buyers have already begun asking for higher volumes andinventory rebounds are expected. Market sources said Shintech's Januarysettlement should be a bellwether of what's to come, and the company isexpected to settle that pricing later this week or early next week. PVC'sdirection also is expected to trickle down to ethylene dichloride and vinylchloride monomer, which have retreated in tandem with PVC amid weak globaldemand.
Import PE buyers in key South American markets are expected tocontinue to show little buy interest in the wake of US-origin offers that manyin the region still view as too high, sources said. While PE prices from USexporters have softened in recent weeks, many markets players from Brazil toChile are of the opinion that a floor has yet to be reached, sources said.
PPbuyers, meanwhile, have seen availability of regionally produced resinsimprove along the Pacific Coast, with Colombia's Esenttia and Chile'sPetroquim returning to normal production levels between the end of Q3 and Q4.With more South America-produced PP resins available, some pressure has beenfelt in the import market, particularly by traders peddling on-the-watercargoes, sources have said.
In Brazil, Braskem is raising domestic PP pricesby Real 100-200/mt (around $31-$62/mt)for December, a company source saidFriday, citing a weakening Brazilian Real and stability in internationalpricing. Braskem will roll over the November 15 Real 200/mt increase on all PEsold in Brazil, the source said, adding that demand has been strong. Many ofBraskem's customers are expected to maintain operations throughout December,the source said.
Others in Brazil, however, are eyeing reduction inconsumption of resins this month, in line with seasonal slowdowns typicallybrought on by port closures, worker vacations and holiday celebrations.