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Watch: Market Movers Europe, Mar 15-19: Green policies, petrochemical feedstock prices in the spotlight

In this week's highlights: Oil markets focus on Europe's slow pandemic recovery, EU environment ministers debate recovery funds, plastics recyclers fear feedstock shortages and the styrene market eyes imports amid a price surge.

Europe's slow recovery in focus

EU Environment ministers debate recovery funds

Elections in the Netherlands and two German states

Styrene market eyes imports as prices surge

Plastics recyclers fear feedstock crunch

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In this week's highlights: EU environment ministers debate recovery funds, plastics recyclers fear feedstock shortages and the styrene market eyes imports amid a price surge. But first, in oil, market participants remain focused on the pace of the pandemic recovery. European demand has broadly been picking up, but progress has faltered in recent weeks, with mobility rates still around 35% below pre-pandemic levels, vaccine roll-outs proceeding slowly, and infection rates ticking up in some areas, such as northern Italy.

The International Energy Agency will be giving its views on this and the medium-term outlook for oil when it publishes both its monthly oil market report and its five-year outlook, Oil 2021, on Wednesday. Turning to the upstream industry, North Sea industry group Oil & Gas UK publishes its annual outlook on Tuesday, with several speakers giving their views on the industry's recovery prospects at the launch event.

And that takes us to our social media question for the week: Do you think European crude demand will recover to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2021? Tweet us your thoughts using the hashtag #PlattsMM.

Elsewhere, with energy production and use responsible for 75% of EU greenhouse gas emissions, all eyes will be on the EU Environment Council meeting on Thursday. Ministers are to debate the role of the 672 billion euro Recovery and Resilience Facility, of which at least 37 per cent is to support climate objectives. They will also discuss a Commission proposal for a single regulation covering the entire lifecycle of batteries, seen as key to establishing a sustainable battery industry in Europe.

Meanwhile, the speed of Europe's energy transition may get a political reality check this week with elections in the Netherlands and two states in western Germany. The outcome of the German votes in Rhineland-Palatine and Baden-Wuerttemberg on March 14 may indicate who will lead the Conservatives into September's national election, with the cost of ambitious renewable targets a hot topic.

The Dutch vote on March 17 meanwhile is the first serious contest since the Covid-19 pandemic took hold. The polls indicate a continuation of the current VVD coalition, promising continuity on the phase-out of coal, encouragement for carbon capture and potential support for small-scale nuclear.

In petrochemicals markets, the European styrene market will be looking to other regions to ease supply tightness after further surges in spot prices last week extended already record high values amid unplanned outages and ahead of spring maintenance. Globally, low inventories have restricted the availability of material from outside Europe, and while several cargoes have been booked for Europe, laycans remain uncertain. As shown in the graph, current-month styrene spot prices climbed to $2700/mt FOB ARA on March 11, marking a threefold increase since the start of 2021 and affecting both upstream and downstream markets. Styrene is a key feedstock for end-uses such as packaging, white goods and automotive parts.

Plastics recyclers meanwhile, will be keeping a close eye on plant operating rates amid discussions with customers for April volumes as fears of feedstock shortages increase. Demand for recycled polyethylene terephthalate and high-density polyethylene has ramped up in response to record high virgin polymer prices. However, sellers are increasingly uncertain that there will be enough material to satisfy all customers. Prices for post-consumer mixed HDPE and post-consumer PET bottle bales, the feedstocks for recycled HDPE and PET, have already increased 68% and 20% so far this year.

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. Thanks for kicking off your Monday with us and have a great week ahead!