The FOB Korea benzene marker inched up 16 cents/mt day on day, fluctuating within a narrow band to be assessed at $596.33/mt. With laycan declarations for March FOB Korea cargoes concluded, a rare spread emerged between H1 and H2 March. H1 March benzene was last bid and offered at $587/mt and $590/mt FOB Korea, while H2 March benzene was last bid and offered at $591/mt and $594/mt FOB Korea. H1 March/H2 March was assessed at minus $3/mt Wednesday. The intramonth spread emerged on the back of length in the prompt market, with February cargoes heard still available. Traders also expressed concerns over persistent buying interest in the CFR China market, despite high inventories in the East China market, on expectations that yuan-denominated prices would fall too much too fast if inventories continue to rise. Stock levels were heard unchanged over the Lunar New Year holidays, as shipments in and out of tanks ground to a halt over the festive season. East China stocks last stood at 230,000 mt Wednesday, unchanged week on week, but rose 80,000 mt on the year. Producers of downstream phenol and caprolactam were also heard mulling the recent strength in benzene, which had risen $85.33/mt since the start of the year. Nonetheless, production margins remained strong for phenol and caprolactam producers. Styrene margins, too, remained firm at $106.80/mt, despite the recent strength in ethylene, another feedstock for styrene.
FOB Korea benzene was assessed higher by 16 cents/mt day on day at $596.33/mt Wednesday. The marker takes the average of the third, fourth and fifth half-month laycans, H1 March, H2 March, and H1 April. During the CSG Market on Close assessment process, there were no transparent bids and offers seen. The H1 March laycan was assessed at $592/mt FOB Korea, keeping the H1 March/H2 March spread at the pegged level of minus $3/mt. The H2 March laycan was assessed at $595/mt FOB Korea, based on the H2 March/April spread valued at minus $7/mt, above a bid at minus $8/mt. The H1 April laycan was assessed at $602/mt FOB Korea, above a bid last seen at $601/mt FOB Korea. The CFR China marker was assessed at the pegged level of $608/mt, down $1/mt day on day, above buying indications heard at $605/mt CFR China, and below an offer seen at $615/mt CFR China. The East China marker was assessed at Yuan 4,880/mt, down Yuan 10/mt day on day, or at $608.63/mt on an import parity basis.