Downstream demand from styrene monomer production and a wide styrene/benzene spread supported local benzene demand in Europe, with Northwest European benzene spot barges for delivery 5-30 days forward assessed at US$615/mt CIF ARA Wednesday, up US$15/mt on the day, as per Platts.
This put benzene spot prices at a premium of US$39/mt, or 6.8%, to the March Monthly Contract Price of US$576/mt (EUR523/mt) Wednesday. Throughout February, European benzene spot prices averaged US$590/mt. This represented an average discount of US$11.50/mt, or 1.9%, to the February MCP of US$601.50/mt (Eur551.50/mt).
"Seems like there may be some tightness in the [benzene] market...I think styrene may be a big driving factor," a Europe-based trader said . Around half of Europe's benzene output is used to produce styrene monomer, a chemical intermediate for making styrenics products such as polystyrene, acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene and styrene-butadiene-rubber. According to industry sources, European styrene monomer production plants were running at high rates ahead of scheduled turnarounds in Europe in the upcoming weeks, which -- according to Platts data -- could amount to a total reduction in styrene production of 99,863 mt.
Moreover, downstream demand for benzene was supported by a wide styrene/benzene spread both in terms of spot and contract prices.
The March contract price styrene/benzene spread -- the difference between the FOB ARA styrene March MCP and the CIF ARA benzene March MCP -- was at US$543.82/mt (EUR502/mt) Wednesday, up US$139.20/mt (EUR128.50/mt) from the February contract price spread. The contract styrene/benzene spread widened after the benzene and styrene March MCP settlements earlier this week. The styrene March MCP settled at EUR1,025/mt (US$1,110.38), up EUR100/mt from February's value, while the benzene March MCP settled US$25.50/mt (EUR28.50/mt) lower than the midpoint of the February contract prices of US$601.50/mt, or Eur551.50/mt.
Meanwhile, despite narrowing $15/mt on the day, the spot styrene/benzene spread -- the difference between the FOB ARA styrene spot price and the CIF ARA spot benzene price -- was still relatively wide at $400/mt Wednesday. On average the spot styrene/benzene spread was at $321.10/mt in February, Platts data showed.
Downstream support for the European benzene complex remained visible during the Thursday morning session London time, with bid-offer ranges for spot benzene CIF ARA heard higher at a US$620-625/mt bid range and US$650/mt offer for March delivery.
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