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A look back at Asian, European ABS markets in 2018: Prices remain weak for 9 months in sync with styrene

by ChemOrbis Editorial Team -
  • 28/12/2018 (09:33)
ABS markets both in Europe and Asia made a bullish start to 2018 and preserved the upward trend during most of the first quarter on the back of rising costs. However, both markets witnessed a visible softening trend for the last three quarters to end the year on multi-year lows.

China pioneered ABS uptrend in Q4 of 2017

China’s ABS market rebounded in early November of 2017 as the rally of crude oil prices, higher upstream costs as well as limited availability in Asia encouraged sellers to take a firmer stance despite the lack of demand.

China’s import ABS market hit 5-year-high in February

Following an upward trend for 4 months until late February, China’s import ABS prices hit their highest levels not seen in 5 years, as the weekly average data from ChemOrbis Price Index suggest.

Europe was on an uptrend for 4 consecutive months

European ABS markets responded to the firming in Asian markets due to reduced import volumes from Asia as well as rising costs as of December 2017 and posted increases for the following four months until April.

Slumping styrene paved the way for the downward momentum in ABS

As can be seen in the below graph created by ChemOrbis Price Wizard, spot styrene prices in Asia peaked in early August while Europe mostly followed a decreasing trend since March . The visible losses in the upstream styrene market are one of the inevitable factors that paved the way for the decreases in the ABS market.

Styrene hit more-than-2-year low in Europe, 3-year-low in Asia in December
According to ChemOrbis data, European spot styrene prices turned down as of August and posted significant drops to hit more than two year-lows in early December. Asian styrene prices, meanwhile, are now standing at a 3-year low on weekly average after losing 35% since August.

ABS prices see more-than-27-month low in Southeast Asia, China

According to ChemOrbis Price Index, import ABS markets in China and Southeast Asia followed a mostly downward trend for 9 months after reaching their peak levels by late February. In December, both markets reached their lowest levels not seen since late September-early October 2016.

Trade war between China-US kept demand tepid in Asia

Depreciating local currencies in the midst of trade tensions between China and the US deterred players from engaging in fresh material in Southeast Asia and China. Players mostly adopted a cautious stance amid lingering uncertainties related to the trade war, which consequently affected their ABS business.

European ABS markets lost 23% since their peak in March

According to weekly average data from ChemOrbis Price Index, ABS prices on FD NWE basis reached their lowest levels since February 2016 while prices in Italy hit their lowest levels since August 2016 in December. Similar to Asian ABS trend, both markets were on a softening trend for 9 months after they hit their highest levels in March.

The European ABS market witnessed a mostly thin buying interest amid comfortable supplies. Regional players confirmed a visible slowdown in the automotive sector.
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