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ABS demand in China starts to stall

Trading activity has been slowing down in China's ABS market recently, prompting some traders and distributors to offer discounts in order to speed up their sales. Suppliers of the material, however, are said to be standing firm on their prices, with these producers commenting that they would rather reduce their operating rates than cut their prices.

This all according to plastics pricing service Chemorbis. Import ABS offers in the Chinese market were stable at the upper end of the range this week while prices dipped $20/ton on the lower end of the range on a week-over-week basis. A similar trend was observed in the domestic market, where the low end of the overall price range shed CNY300/ton ($45/ton) while the upper end of the range remained unchanged over the past week. Traders and distributors were generally more willing to concede to price reductions than producers, with several traders telling Chemorbis that they are prepared to sacrifice margins in order to pare down their stock levels while adding that they are not reducing their purchase volumes from producers as they are not very optimistic about the demand outlook for the coming month.
 
On the buyers' side, processors said that they are trying to delay their purchases for as long as possible at the present in anticipation of seeing some relief on prices over the near term, adding that they believe that ABS prices are due for a correction following several consecutive weeks of rising prices which have brought import ABS offers on a CFR China basis to levels $80-90/ton higher than the levels seen at the beginning of November.
 
Producers have so far proven mostly unwilling to lower their prices, saying that they cannot afford to give any ground on their offers for now given their rising production costs. Spot acetonitrile (CAN) prices jumped $70-75/ton over the past week in Asia in response to persistently limited supplies, with players adding that spot ACN prices are likely to remain on an upward trend into the first months of 2011. In the styrene market, offers for spot cargoes on an FOB Korea basis were reported mostly unchanged over the past week, with sources commenting that the market is finding support from healthy demand in other Asian countries in spite of discouraging demand from the Chinese market.  Spot butadiene prices retreated by around $10/ton over the past week due to sufficient supplies inside China, although some market participants reported that supplies could begin to decline in China over the near term as cracker operators are coming under pressure to increase their diesel fuel production in order to counteract the current diesel shortage inside China.

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