Phenol – Another year of overcapacity and negative margins seems likely

At first sight, it looks as though the global phenol market had started the New Year on a bit of a high. The spot prices in China had risen by around $100/ton to $880/ton cfr at the beginning of this year and there was a general feeling at some of the Asian producers that things were slowly showing some signs of improving. If only this were the case.

For sure, an increase of $100/ton in the spot prices was something worth noting, but also was the rise in the prices for benzene. In the USA the contract benzene prices went up by around $100/ton and those in Europe by $174/ton. In Asia the spot levels came down slightly, but they had gone up from mid December by some $90/ton, ahead of the increases in the USA and Europe. On a comparative basis, the USA stood at $799-823/ton, Europe at $842/ton and Northeast Asia at $815-820/ton, so all fairly close enough to each other.

However, it is, as ever, the prices of propylene …

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