China methanol at seven-week high; lacks direction pre-holiday

04:20' PM - Monday, 21/01/2019

Chinese methanol spot prices have hit their highest since November 2018 amid a bullish sentiment that brought traders back into the market.

On 18 January, methanol prices increased for the second week to $270-288/tonne CFR (cost and freight) China, up $4/tonne from the previous week, according to ICIS data.

Transactions improved but a number of deals were done among trading companies instead of with end-users.

Most end-users have completed their pre-Lunar New Year procurement and their requirements are now covered until late February.

The Lunar New Year will be celebrated in China for a full week on 4-10 February.

Demand for methanol from downstream markets is expected to recover in March, when a major methanol-to-olefin (MTO) unit is expected to restart.

Olefins prices are also expected to rise due to a heavy turnaround schedule at Asia’s crackers in March.

Olefin is a key downstream product of methanol, and can also be produced though naphtha cracking and fluid catalytic cracking (FCC).

Buying interest improved on concerns over a possible shortage in import supply.

A Middle East plant and a southeast Asian plant which export methanol to China are due to shut for more than one month of turnaround around late February, market sources said.

Supply to China, as well as India would be further constrained by a technical issue at another Middle East-based methanol facility.

In the week ended 18 January, CFR India prices rose $5/tonne to $245/tonne, ICIS data showed.

Other markets in Asia firmed as a result of rebound in Chinese market. A mainstream trader in Korea put out a bid at $300/tonne CFR Korea, without a seller.

However, price upside was limited by current sluggish performance in the downstream olefin market, and tank ullage issues at east China main ports.

Spot propylene prices in northeast Asia were lower in the week on poor demand ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday.

A trader sold its imported methanol to end-buyers for back-to-back profit-taking.

“As a trader, I will just sell if I can make a profit right here,” the trader said, explaining why he did not take a long position for future growth.

“I think you just cannot see the direction until late February,” a Singapore-based trader said. - ICIS -

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