Petrochemicals Market Weak Demand Affects Petrochemical Prices

Editor: Dominik Stephan

Weak demands resulted in falling prices on the US $ 3 trillion plus global petrochemicals market: With an average of US $ 1,378 per ton in march per metric ton, the price is about five percents below values for February.

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The daily price for petrochemicals in US $ reflected as a monthly average
The daily price for petrochemicals in US $ reflected as a monthly average
(Source: Platts)

According to the monthly average of the Platts Global Petrochemical Index (PGPI), a benchmark basket of seven widely used petrochemicals, this development followed a 6% increase in February. On a year-over-year basis, prices also were down 5% from the March 2012 average price of US $1,445 per ton, according to data published by Platts, a global energy, petrochemicals and metals information provider. Petrochemicals are used to make plastic, rubber, nylon and other consumer products and are utilized in manufacturing, construction, pharmaceuticals, aviation, electronics and nearly every commercial industry.

“Of the three groups of chemicals making up the Platts Global Petrochemical Index –aromatics, polymers and olefins – the aromatics posted the largest price decline in March,” said Jim Foster, Platts senior petrochemicals analyst. “Asian demand for xylenes wasn’t there last month, so toluene was not being converted to xylenes or benzene,” he explained. “Styrene plants were shut down, which resulted in length in the global benzene market.”

Weak Demand from Asia: Paraxylene Price Falls Sharply

The average price of paraxylene was US $ 1,472/mt in March, down 10% from the February level and marking the first decline since June 2012, when the average paraxylene price fell 16%. Toluene, which can be converted into xylene and benzene, fell 8% in March to US $ 1,197/mt, on weakened Asian paraxylene demand.

Global benzene prices also posted an 8% decline in March, dropping to an average of US $ 1,301/mt. Benzene is primary raw material input for styrene production. With several styrene plants shut during March for routine maintenance, demand for benzene declined.

Olefins prices were lower in March as downstream plastic demand ebbed and raw input costs dropped. The global propylene index in March fell 6% to an average price of US $ 1,331/mt, following a February level of US $ 1,411/mt. The price decline in propylene, which is used to produce polypropylene, also spurred a pull-back in the March global polypropylene price index, which slipped 3% to US $ 1,528/mt.

Ethylene, the second olefin component of the PGPI, saw a 4% price index retreat in March to US $ 1,349/mt, following the February average of US $ 1,403/mt. Polyethylene, which is produced from ethylene, saw a similar price decline last month. It was down 3% to US $ 1,538/mt.

Petrochemicals Market Defies Gobal Equity Price Trends

Petrochemical prices moved counter to price trends in the global equity markets in March. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) was up 4% last month, while the London Stock Exchange Index (FTSE) edged up 1% and the Nikkei 225 jumped 7%.

Price Assessment of Seven Key Chemicals

The PGPI reflects a compilation of the daily price assessments of physical spot market ethylene, propylene, benzene, toluene, paraxylene, low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and polypropylene as published by Platts and is weighted by the three regions of Asia, Europe and the United States. Used as a price reference, a gauge of sector activity, and a measure of comparison for determining the profitability of selling a barrel of crude oil intact or refining it into products, the PGPI was first published by Platts in August 2007.