Polystyrene prices recede in Asia amid falling upstream costs and lackluster demand

17-May-10
Polystyrene offers in Asia have receded in line with falling crude oil and styrene amid lackluster demand from China. As per Chemorbis, crude oil prices lost ground by over eleven dollars since the beginning of May, closing at US$74.40/bbl on May 13th. Spot styrene offers recorded decreases of US$35/ton since the beginning of May, retreating to US$1230/ton FOB Korea on the 14th of May. Since Asia is still in the midst of a heavy maintenance cycle, decreases in spot styrene prices are not as fast as expected, given the fact that traditionally they get influenced by the drops in crude oil prices immediately. On a weekly basis, spot styrene prices indicated a mere ten dollar/ton drop in Asia last week although the styrene outlook remains bearish in the region unless oil prices rebound. These movements took their tool on China’s PS market as Asian producers elected to cut their offers amid slow demand, which was a result of the plunging energy market. Accordingly, overall import Asian GPPS and HIPS prices recorded US$10-30/ton decreases in China compared to the first week of May. These decrease amounts are valid for both dutiable and non-dutiable origins. A similar bearish outlook is noticed in China’s domestic market as most buyers prefer to wait in the sidelines in anticipation of further decreases in the upcoming days. Most distributors chose to lower their offer levels on a daily basis in a bid to generate better buying interest while PS producers’ operating rates are relatively low at 60-80% capacity. In the local market, sellers’ price reductions were around CNY50-200/ton (US$7-30/ton) for GPPS while HIPS retreated by CNY150/ton (US$21/ton) at the low end. As a result, Asian PS offers are expected to soften further on the back of the falling upstream costs and poor demand. The current price reductions also trigger these expectations. However, the softening is anticipated to occur on a gradual basis as theoretical PS production costs still give support to the PS producers.
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