HOUSTON (ICIS)–The US March benzene contract increased, reaching a split settlement of $2.04-$2.08/gal, market sources confirmed on Tuesday, as the monthly price agreement took direction from a late-February spike in spot values.
The increase also reversed seven months of contract-price declines.
The March settlement rose 3-7 cents/gal from the February contract price of $2.01/gal.
The last time the benzene market saw a split settlement was in September 2014 at $4.69-4.70/gal.
As February came to a close, some sources suggested the March contract would settle flat to marginally higher, partly on steady upstream crude prices that hovered near $50/bbl for much of the month despite some volatility.
But sentiment quickly changed as pricing in spot deals and bids and offers escalated during the last few days of February, which saw spot values end the month higher by 19-20% versus January.
The absence of some sellers from the market late last week also was cited as one reason prices spiked.
Free on board (FOB) deals were heard on Tuesday at about a 2 cent/gal premium over delivered, duty paid (DDP), and the benzene market remained in contango.
Major US benzene producers include ExxonMobil, Flint Hills Resources, LyondellBasell, Marathon, Shell, and Phillips 66.