European ABS prices for the most part decreased in January. However, due to Middle East disruptions, causing longer lead times and higher prices of imports, order volumes for domestic suppliers increased.
This prevented prices from falling further and also paved the way for rollovers on some accounts, leading to improved margins for suppliers.
However, this support on prices could be temporary as it relies on the volatile Middle East situation. The persistent expected weakness in overall demand may hinder a sustained recovery.
The price forecasts were revised up, particularly in the short term. The extended lead times and higher prices of imports were the main drivers. An element of restocking and pre-buying may also be at play since there was a race to end the year with low inventories in December.
Moreover, as the market heads toward the seasonally strong period at the end of the first quarter and in the second quarter, there will be some concern to secure volumes.
Also, in terms of costs, benzene prices seem to be increasing and this will be a major factor placing upward pressure on prices, especially next month. Nonetheless, there is the possibility that the current upward direction will soon end.
But this is reliant on the disruption in transport from Asia to Europe, and for now this does not look likely to end soon. Prices will see a bigger than anticipated recovery in the short term.
However, this recovery should run out of steam due to expected improvement in the Middle East. The ongoing and persistent macroeconomic weakness should result in prolonged weak demand.
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