North American chemical stocks tumbled on Wednesday

(ICIS) -- North American chemical stocks tumbled on Wednesday as the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted by nearly 520 points, wiping out gains made during Tuesday's short-lived rally.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 10,719.94, down 4.62%. The decline followed a huge 430-point gain on Tuesday, during which several chemical stocks outperformed the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

As on Tuesday, many chemical stocks on Wednesday performed better than the Dow Jones Industrial Average, with base-oils producer Calumet actually rising, gaining 4.86%.
Among Wednesday's losers, specialty-chemicals producer Ferro dropped the most, falling by 11.14%.

For the majors, Dow Chemical dropped by 4.22%% and DuPont fell by 4.02%.
Industrial gasses producer Praxair declined by 2.17% and fertilizer producer PotashCorp nosed down by 2.59%. Despite those declines, a relative optimism in the nation's chemical industry stems in part from the feedstock advantage in the US.


Naphtha prices in Asia are expected to be range-bound

(ICIS) -- Naphtha prices in Asia are expected to be range-bound, with players waiting for direction as the tumult in the equity markets this week sparked off fears of a global economic slump and lower demand for plastics, traders said on Thursday.

Naphtha, the feedstock for all petrochemicals, closed at USD 896.50-898.50/tonne (EUR 627.55-628.95/tonne) CFR (cost & freight) Japan on Wednesday, the lowest since 28 June when prices were at $877.50-879.50/tonne CFR Japan, ICIS data showed.

Prices were hit amid a global oil slump over the past few days, but crude oil futures bounced higher on Wednesday and dropped again in Asian trading on Thursday, beset by woes of the European debt crisis.


Europe chemical stocks, commodities stabilise on Federal Reserve reassurance

(ICIS) -- European chemical company share prices showed slight gains as global markets steadied after a week of sell-offs, while oil and chemical commodity prices also rose slightly early on Wednesday.

Falling prices in markets across the world were halted by the US central bank's decision to keep interest rates in the world's biggest economy at historic lows.

Despite a raft of strong second-quarter results, chemical firms' shares prices had followed most world stock markets downwards in the week to 9 August, on the back of concerns over fiscal stability in the US and Europe and fears that major Western economies could be facing a double-dip recession.

However, stocks and commodities rallied on Tuesday and Wednesday after the US central bank, the Federal Reserve, announced that it would keep interest rates at historic lows near 0% for at least two more years, with policy makers in Europe and Asia likely to follow suit.


FPCC will keep five facilities in Mailiao shut

(ICIS) -- Taiwan's Formosa Petrochemical Corp (FPCC) will keep five facilities in Mailiao, including two pipelines, shut for an indefinite period of time to ensure safe operations, following a string of fires at the petrochemical complex, a company spokesperson said on Wednesday.

These include a 700 KTa No 1 naphtha cracker, the propylene and hydrogen pipelines attached to the cracker, a 540.000 bbl/day refinery and an 80.000 bbl/day residual desulphurisation (RDS) unit that were directly affected by the fires, the FPCC spokesperson said.

FPCC's 100 KTa epichlorohydrin (ECH) plant is due to be shut for a month of maintenance in September, according to a company source.

FPCC's sister companies, Formosa Plastics Corp (FPC), Formosa Chemicals & Fibre Corp (FCFC) and Nan Ya Plastics are also due to submit the maintenance schedules of their Mailiao facilities on 10 August.


Chem trade group puts chance of US recession at one in three

(ICIS) -- The American Chemistry Council (ACC) increased the chance of the US slipping back into a recession to one in three, up from one in four in July, the chemical trade group said on Tuesday.
Softness in the manufacturing industry, the weakening of export markets and the Purchasing Managers' Index growing at a slower rate are all signs that a recession may be on the horizon, said ACC economist Martha Moore.

Regardless, Moore said the ACC's forecast for the chemicals industry is for continued growth, albeit at a slower pace. The country's ethane advantage because of the shale gas revolution will continue to be a positive for the industry, Moore said. Unlike much of the world, the US uses ethane instead of naphtha as a feedstock.

Meanwhile, the US Federal Reserve Board on Tuesday announced it would keep interest rates at historic lows for at least two years in order to boost consumer and market confidence in the wake of economic uncertainty.