The highlights on S&P Global Platts Market Movers in Asia, with Head of Metals Insight Paul Bartholomew:
*Medical device demand drives condensate and naphtha purchases
*Metals raw materials market to take cue from China, India, and Japan's manufacturing data
*China's thermal coal demand dwindles ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays
*Tight supply seen to drive methanol prices
This week: Demand for bulk commodities such as iron ore and coal continue to cool ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, while medical equipment manufacturing is boosting demand for petrochemicals products.
Heightened health and infection concerns spurred by the still-raging coronavirus pandemic has seen demand for certain petrochemical products increase sharply in South Korea in January. Demand for polypropylene, low-density polyethylene and PVC to make medical equipment such as medical kits, shields and medicine packaging has surged. This has South Korean refiners and petrochemical makers scrambling to secure supply of base feedstock condensate and naphtha. That demand is proving a boon for Australia's ultra-light crude sales. Premiums have been trending sharply higher over the past few trading cycles, as you can see on this graph, with Asian buyers paying more for spot Australian condensate cargoes since early 2021. This reliance on Australian supply is expected to increase further in the coming months.
In Japan, there are concerns that emergency measures to curb the spread of the pandemic may need to be extended beyond February 7. Some estimate that this move could result in a 10% year on year drop in Japan's gasoline demand in February. Japan's gasoline demand is estimated to have fallen to its lowest monthly level in 32 years in January, and the drop was attributed to the lockdown.
Moving on to metals, eyes will be on manufacturing data from China, India and Japan. The manufacturing sector has been a star performer in recent months as economies recovered after the pandemic lockdowns. There have been some signs that China's post-Covid rally may have plateaued. Steel and raw materials players will hope the data indicates this is not the case.
The upcoming Lunar New Year holidays have started to have some effect on market activity. Imported iron ore prices lost almost $10 in a day last week, as restocking slowed. Finished steel prices in China have weakened, as some buyers prefer to wait until after the holiday to get a better sense of market direction. Will iron ore prices fall to $140/mt CFR China by the start of the Lunar New Year holiday? Share your thoughts on Twitter with the hashtag PlattsMM.
China's thermal coal demand is also expected to be lackluster ahead of the holidays, while loading conditions in Indonesia have improved. Indonesian export coal prices are expected to fall in line with Chinese domestic coal prices.
And finally, Asian methanol prices could see some upside this week due to tight global supply. Middle Eastern producers have been allocating more cargoes to the higher-priced European methanol market. European methanol prices are 18% higher at $420/mt compared with a fortnight ago. A major Norwegian producer and a Russian producer remain offline, and there are no restart dates. Additionally, plant outages in Southeast Asia will also support Asian methanol prices.
So with that, thanks for kicking off your Monday with us. For more on all the issues affecting commodity markets from wherever you are, make sure to check out Platts LIVE at the address displayed on your screen. Have a great week ahead!