Asian benzene prices were flat April 30 from April 27 at $1,187.50/mt FOB Korea, as bids and offers were rangebound, with markets in China and Japan closed for public holidays. The arbitrage window from Asia to the US Gulf was marginally open, a market participant said.
FOB USG prices for June benzene were assessed at 418 cents/gal April 27, or about $1,251/mt. Shipping costs from Ulsan to Houston stand at $50/mt, so spot benzene prices in Asia should be less than $1,201/mt for the window to open.
The US prompt price was assessed April 27 at $1,261/mt FOB USG. Benzene production margins were firm as the benzene-naphtha price spread stood at $180.87/mt April 30, up from $178.62/mt April 27, and higher than the $150/mt breakeven level typically required by integrated plants. The European benzene price was assessed at $1,259/mt CIF ARA.
Asian toluene was assessed at $1,208/mt FOB Korea April 30, flat from April 27. June ICE Brent crude futures was assessed at $119.47/barrel at 4:30 pm Singapore time (0830 GMT), up 11 cents/b over the same period.
"Activity in the Asian toluene market is limited because of the holidays," a producer based in Singapore said. The US toluene price was assessed April 27 at $1,225/mt FOB USG. The European price was assessed at $1,230/mt FOB Rdam.
Asian isomer-grade mixed xylenes edged down $3/mt April 30 from April 27 to $1,241/mt FOB Korea and $1,251/mt CFR Taiwan, tracking similar movements in downstream paraxylene.
Isomer-MX trading activity will be extremely thin this week due to the Golden Week holiday in Japan and most of Asia closed May 1 for Labor Day. The isomer-MX balance in Asia is expected to be long in the coming months due to large volumes of deepsea cargoes arriving in April and May despite weak downstream demand.
Traders were bringing in isomer-MX cargoes into Asia, despite the closed US-Asia arbitrage, on the expectation of increased isomer-MX demand emerging from new PX plants that had been expected to start up in Asia by end June.
But with these projects being postponed to H2, the current demand and supply balance in Asia is expected to be long. The US MX price was assessed April 27 at $1,227/mt FOB USG.
The Asian paraxylene market was assessed at $1,544.50/mt CFR Taiwan/China April 30, edging down $2/mt from April 27, pressured by a fall in isomer-grade mixed xylene prices.
Market sentiment was slightly weaker April 30 as some of new purified terephthalic acid plants in China due to start up are seen to be facing some delays. "The market is not as tight as previously expected," a market source said.
In related plant news, South Korea's biggest oil refiner, SK Innovation, plans to build a new 1.3 million mt/year PX plant by late 2012 at its Incheon complex. The PX plan is part of the company's efforts to turn the Incheon complex into "an aromatics-focused refinery to boost product competitiveness and profitability," the company said.
The US PX price was assessed April 27 at $1,540/mt FOB USG. The European price was assessed April 27 at $1,495/mt FOB ARA.
The Asian styrene monomer price for H1 June was assessed flat April 30 at $1,480/mt FOB Korea as regional holidays kept some participants sidelined. The assessment was $28 above the US prompt price from April 27, which was assessed at $1,452/mt FOB USG.
The European price for June was assessed April 27 at $1,505/mt FOB Rdam. Taiwan's Formosa Chemicals and Fiber Corp. is to ramp up run rates at its 250,000 mt/year No. 1 SM plant at Mailiao to 100% after it was restarted over the weekend, a company source said Monday.
The plant was shut in May 2011 due to a fire at the company's oil and petrochemical complex. Its current operating rate is not known, and its ramp-up to full rates will be gradual.