With October trading winding down, traders are looking ahead to November. Gulf Coast ethylene prices finished out last week on a strong note, with prices assessed at 24 cents/lb for October, up more than 3 cents/lb from earlier in the week on an unconfirmed production issue. Market structure was backwardated, with November trailing 0.5 cent/lb behind October. US propylene spot prices started the week out at 34.25 cents/lb, rebounding from earlier in the week on declining inventories.
US spot export polyethylene prices are expected to hover at current levels or possibly decline amid increasingly bearish sentiment with soft demand and ample supply. US PE markets have been soft headed into the last two months of the year, with healthy inventories. Market participants expect a year-end rush to reduce those inventories with more exports to create logjams in rail storage-in-transit (SIT) yards and possibly some packaging warehouses in Houston, New Orleans and Charleston, South Carolina. Companies pay taxes on inventories as of December 31 each year in Texas and Louisiana, prompting an export rush, but logjams that emerged last year were expected to be the same or worse this year with more new PE capacity slated to start up in the coming weeks. US spot polypropylene prices remain linked to the movement of upstream polymer-grade propylene pricing, which slipped more than 3 cents over the span of a week before a slight climb last Friday. Supply/demand fundamentals have kept PP prices relatively stable, and US producers have largely retreated from export opportunities. Market participants are talking the monthly PGP contract, with one anticipating a decline up to 2 cents/lb.
Brazilian polyethylene and polypropylene markets are expected to be under pressure over lower prices from international suppliers over the week. In the past weeks, PE prices were unchanged. Currency exchange is starting Monday at similar levels week on week at Real 4.14/$1, opening room for changes in the local market. Braskem said it managed to increase prices by Real 200/mt for the HDPE family and LLDPE, and Real 250/mt for LDPE. On the West Coast of South America, spot import polyethylene prices are expected to be driven by US and Asian prices during the week. Prices were stable last week. Traders expect international pressure for decrease in both PE and PP prices for the region. Most PE prices continue to be the lowest level since Platts began assessing the WCSA PE and PP market in June 2010. The Argentina polyethylene market is expected to be stable during the week as the country usually see more pricing movements in the turnover of each month. Dow Argentina is back producing at limited rates at its Bahia Blanca complex. With more material available, prices could see drops in the future. The Mexican polyethylene market is expected to start the week attached to the US markets and USG prices. Prices were unchanged last week, but still at low historical levels. The proximity, logistical convenience and trading relation with the US makes pricing connection inevitable, while currency exchange and internal demand are also drivers for consumption.
US spot export polyvinyl chloride prices are expected to remain rangebound at $740-$750/mt FAS Houston this week, the levels where US producers settled October pricing, as market participants prepare to launch November pricing negotiations. Last week, a key Asian producer reduced offers for November material by $30/mt amid bearish sentiment and an influx of deepsea cargoes. However, US market sources largely do not expect that sharp decline in US pricing, though sources said they expect November pricing to settle below October levels. Upstream, ethylene dichloride prices are expected to strengthen amid sharply lower chlor-alkali rates, which fell to 84% in September, down from 92% in August, reflecting Olin's turnaround on its 748,000 mt/year EDC plant in Freeport, Texas.
Little change is expected in the US aromatics markets in the near term with softer benzene and paraxylene prices negatively impacting the entire complex. Spot benzene values are expected to remain soft amid weak derivative styrene demand. Spot styrene prices have fallen to levels where margins have turned negative and sellers have noted there is little incentive to offer spot material. This was not expected to change for the remainder of the month and could spill over into November as additional supply keeps pressure on styrene prices. Xylenes are not expected to see significant change with softer paraxylene prices are suppressing economics for Parex units as well as from toluene-based chemical production. STDP margins were last estimated at minus $46/mt, according to Platts estimates. Margins are not expected to improve and this is expected to add some length to toluene prices, sources said.
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