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Singapore — Narrow arbitrage economics into China and the US Gulf Coast would likelykeep the Asian benzene market under pressure this week, even as the FOB Koreabenzene price marker inched down $3.50/mt week on week last Friday amidvolatile crude oil futures.

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AROMATICS

The Asian styrene market is expected to continue treading cautiously thisweek, with Chinese end-users reluctant to actively seek out spot cargoesdespite low inventory levels because of the spike in Asian styrene pricessince mid-November.

Toluene meanwhile, would likely remain stable to firm amid anticipationthat term levels for 2018 would be concluded at premiums of $4/mt to thePlatts FOB Korea marker on a FOB Korea basis. Market participants are alsoawaiting South Korea's domestic settlements that will set the price trend forthe Asia toluene market in 2018. The FOB Korea toluene price marker fell$7.50/mt week on week last Friday.

Sentiment in Asia's paraxylene market is seen remaining firm for thetime being, with planned startups of new downstream purified terephthalic acidunits. CFR Taiwan/China paraxylene prices were largely stable over the week,inching down just 67 cents/mt week on week to $910/mt last Friday.

OLEFINS

In contrast, Asian olefins rose across the board last week, buoyed byfirm demand. The CFR Northeast Asia ethylene price rose $10/mt week on weeklast Friday, while the CFR China propylene price increased $11/mt during thesame period.

Demand for spot ethylene and propylene was firm last week, triggered bypersistent production shortfalls due to lower run rates at methanol-to-olefinsplants in China. The recent rise in prices may see more deepsea supplies,especially ethylene, head towards Asia.

While CFR China butadiene prices rose $10/mt week on week last Friday, asupply glut in North China pressured down the domestic market, as seen fromdomestic prices slipping Yuan 300/mt week on week to Yuan 9,500/mt lastFriday.

METHANOL, MTBE Tight supply has pushed methanol prices higher, which would likely keepChinese MTO plant operations at relatively low rates this week due to negativemargins. But market sources said the near-term price increase would be limitedas CFR China methanol prices were already hovering at 10-month highs.

Sentiment in Asia's MTBE market sentiment would likely remain firm earlythis week, as other gasoline blending components such as toluene were fed intothe gasoline blending pool and thereby tightening spot supply of thesecargoes.

POLYMERS

The CFR Far East Asia film-grade high density polyethylene price rose$20/mt week on week to a two-year high of $1,300/mt CFR Far East Asia Friday,driven by low inventories amid delivery delays notably from Iran. But marketsources said general market sentiment would likely remain weak in line withplanned capacity expansions.

In PVC, fresh offers for January are due to be announced in a few weekstime. Market sources said fresh January offers would likely be increasedcompared to December -- possibly a rise of $10-$20/mt -- mainly driven by firmdemand from India. For December, negotiations finished with a $50/mt pricedecline compared to November.

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

--Edited by Irene Tang, irene.tang@spglobal.com