Firmer upstream costs prop up polystyrene prices in Asia despite weak demand

11-Jul-11
In Asia, import PS prices changed direction as offer levels started to gain during the past week, as per ChemOrbis. Firmer upstream costs support these increases, as GPPS offer levels are currently US$25-100/ton below theoretical costs based on spot styrene prices. In the upstream markets, styrene costs, which started the month of July on a downward note vs beginning of June, started to firm up. Since the start of July, styrene costs recorded US$75/ton increases, benzene costs recorded a hike of US$70/ton, and spot naphtha prices gained US$35/ton CFR Japan week-over-week basis. Meanwhile, oil prices saw marginal gains over the course of last week. In addition to these bullish upstream developments, upcoming styrene plant shutdowns added to last week’s bullish atmosphere. CNOOC and Shell Petrochemicals’ joint venture halted operations for five days at their steam cracker complex along with their 560,000 tpa styrene plant. Taiwan Styrene Monomer Corporation also stopped operating its 180,000 tpa No 1 plant, located at Lin Yuan, due to a feedstock shortage. Meanwhile, Formosa Petrochemical’s 250,000 tpa and 350,000 tpa styrene plants in Taiwan continue to be shut after a fire broke out at a LPG pipeline on May 12. The plants, which were down due to the feedstock shortage, are not expected to come online before mid-July, as opposed to the earlier restart date expectations of mid-June. Formosa Chemicals and Fibre Corp. is planning a 30 day maintenance shutdown during Q3 at its 340,000 tpa Taiwanese styrene plant while Nihon Oxirane mulls a 40 day turnaround on its 450,000 tpa plant in Chiba, Japan. As a result, Asian import GPPS prices gained US$30/ton and HIPS prices rose by US$20/ton at the low end of the ranges in China’s PS market. Yet, the current GPPS offers are still US$25-100/ton below producers’ theoretical GPPS costs, calculated based on the spot styrene prices on FOB Korea basis. Meanwhile, in the local Chinese market, both A and B grade PS offers gained CNY100-200/ton (US$15-30/ton) increases when compared to the previous week. However, overall buying interest is weak in the country, especially after the Central Bank last week raised interest rate for the third time this year in an attempt to tame inflation in the country. This situation is expected to keep the price hike intentions in check despite bullish feedstock costs. In Southeast Asia, a similar panorama is seen as import GPPS prices gained US$39/ton on CIF SEA, cash equivalent basis at the low end of the range while import HIPS prices rose US$40/ton at the low end on week over week basis. In Egypt, where the PS market is dominated by Asian imports, overall GPPS offer levels were mostly stable compared to the last week of June although increases of US$10-20/ton were witnessed within the range. Meanwhile, the import Asian HIPS range moved up by US$30/ton at the low end in the country.
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