Benzene values began the week lower, with most deals heard early in the week at a lower range than last week. Bid/offer levels moved higher midweek as downstream styrene values climbed and upstream crude oil values rallied. Upstream crude oil values moved lower late in the week, however, benzene held relatively steady late in the week.
Deal values for US benzene have been rangebound in the $1.80s/gal for several weeks, about 30 cents/gal lower than the average benzene spot price during December and the US contract price had dropped nearly 30 cents/gal last week amid the lower spot prices.
US benzene prices late in 2015 had been supported by strong demand and lower import levels during the fourth quarter, with October imports at their lowest monthly level for 2015 and November import levels about at about average levels.
The late 2015 fundamentals also helped support benzene values amid plunges in upstream crude oil values.
However, in early January, benzene values dropped sharply, although demand was still heard to be strong. Increased import levels expected in early January had added downward pressure.
US spot benzene was assessed on Friday at $1.85-1.87/gal FOB (free on board), compared with $1.86/gal FOB a week ago.
Major US benzene producers include ExxonMobil, Flint Hills Resources, LyondellBasell, Marathon Petroleum, Shell and Phillips 66.