June PS outlook blurry in Italy on mixed feedstock markets

Lacking clear indications from the upstream markets, the PS market faces mixed expectations for June in Italy, as per ChemOrbis. As the recent jump in spot benzene prices have propped styrene prices higher this week, some increase talks have started to prevail for June. Buyers point out that spot styrene is still trading below early May and overall demand remains subdued amid sufficient supplies. The month of May has witnessed divergent price trends in the midst of poor PS demand and the developments in the upstream feedstock markets. It started on a firm note with sellers asking for €60/ton increases for PS offers on the back of the €47/ton higher monthly styrene contract settlement. However, continued weakness in demand put a cap on these hike targets and relatively smaller increases of €10-30/ton passed in the first half of the month for spot deals. Indeed, buyers even reported obtaining rollovers to up to €40/ton decreases from last month in their PS deals they concluded last week in the spot market, as per ChemOrbis. The decreases seen in the upstream spot styrene market, which totaled $135/ton (€108/ton) in the first half of the month, appear to have shaken sellers’ confidence and they succumbed to lower prices starting from the second half of the month. Nevertheless, spot benzene prices, which lost US$90/ton (€72/ton) in the H1-May, were propped up suddenly by a US$170/ton (€136/ton) increase in the third week of this month caused by extreme tightness in prompt availability. “June benzene cargoes are being offered US$140/ton above July,” reported players in the region underscoring the scarcity for prompt material. Accordingly, players now believe that June benzene contracts will post a higher outcome, finding extra support from the weak euro against the dollar. This news found immediate reflection on spot styrene prices last week with a US$55/ton (€44/ton) weekly increase, helping prices pare some earlier losses. Downstream, it is still unclear how the PS market will unfold for the days ahead. Having already seen discounts in the spot market, many buyers continue to believe that the PS market is on the brink of further decreases. However, rumor has it that European producers are mulling over price hikes of €40-50/ton for June PS offers. A packaging manufacturer who already obtained a €30/ton discount from last month in his May deal said to ChemOrbis, “If PS prices rise next month, we won’t purchase anything as we have already secured enough stocks at competitive prices.” Another buyer manufacturing disposable kitchenwares commented, “We expect to see some discounts instead as demand remains fragile.” Buyers also draw attention to the fact that spot styrene prices are still trading US$80/ton (€64/ton) below early May. Meanwhile, butadiene, a feedstock for HIPS, has lost €600/ton so far in May on a spot basis and an initial contract settled €400/ton lower this past week. All eyes are now on the styrene contract settlements for next month as they are to define how sellers will approach the market.
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