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OLEFINS: December contract prices settled last week, with the ethylene CPrising Eur32/mt to Eur1,057/mt ($1,252/mt) FD NWE and the propylene contractprice rising Eur32/mt to Eur892/mt FD NWE. Rising contract prices defiedlargely lengthening fundamentals, but rising naphtha prices lent support toolefins and are expected to do so this week as well. The CP increases werewidely expected in the market, with some feeling there was pre-buying as aresult. Material remains widely available in Europe with high production runsreported. An unplanned shutdown and subsequent restart at the site of Sabic'sGeleen steam crackers was reported mid-week, with some expecting a possibleimpact on the market. Butadiene demand in Europe is good as December getsunderway. One producer commented that it had yet to see signs of an end ofyear slowdown. Although the European December contract price has been settledlower on the month, spot prices are facing upwards pressure after signs ofdemand from export markets.

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POLYMERS: The return of Borealis' PE and PP assets in Schwechat, Austria areexpected to add bearishness to the spot PE and PP markets. Demand remainssolid, but capped by the usual seasonal eye kept on inventory management. Buying was strong in November meaning some consumers could be absent from themarket in the coming weeks. Some producers reporting order books full for upto six weeks as the year winds down. As for PS, following an increase in theDecember styrene contract price, downstream polystyrene prices are expected torise. Minor production issues in Europe, as well as a lack of competitiveimport offers will continue to keep fundamentals tight in the PS market.

AROMATICS: With the styrene and benzene contract prices settling at a healthyspread, benzene demand is expected to remain robust in Europe. Furthermore, ahealthy benzene premium to toluene could ensure decent benzene-to-tolueneconversion run-rates in Europe. Chemical demand for toluene was on the rise inthe last days of November and this is expected to continue in the first halfof December at least. Furthermore, the toluene arbitrage to the US could provea catalyst, as benzene converters in Europe and traders looking to shiftproduct across the water could end in fight over available spot volumes.

METHANOL AND ETHERS: European methanol has found support from a bullish Asianmarket in recent days, and the same trend could extend into this week. As forMTBE and ETBE, gasoline-blending demand remains subdued in line with seasonaltrends, but rising methanol and an overall strengthening crude oil complex hasoffset most of the losses in MTBE prices.

INTERMEDIATES: Bearish sentiment remains in the MEG market as a result of asecond successive mild winter dampening demand for anti-freeze. Some marketparticipants have suggested last year's stocks are still being sold as aresult. Producers await full-blown winter weather hitting Europe to increasedemand.

SOLVENTS: As the annual slowdown towards the second half of Decemberapproaches, market participants will be looking to get their last businessdone before year-end. Some decent pre-buying was reported last week, whichcould possibly result in a dormant market towards the end of the week.

--Thordur Gunnarsson, thordur.gunnarsson@spglobal.com

--Edited by Maurice Geller, maurice.geller@spglobal.com