Western market consumer price inflation estimates for full-year 2022 have surged YTD to show notably more inflation than Asia – a concern for Western producers. Oneok highlights positive natural gas and NGL fundamentals with its 2Q22 results, which generally align with our view and support upped investment in this sector. US polypropylene (PP) values have fallen relative to polymer-grade propylene in August. We foresee more downward pressure on US PP prices in 2H22. The inflation Reduction Act offers several notable benefits to the energy sector, as noted by Occidental, which we also discuss in our latest ESG weekly report. Low Rhine river levels create logistic issues in Europe, adding to other regional supply problems. We also note downward pressure on shipping rates.
Demand concerns are overtaking the expected benefits of input cost relief for non-integrated intermediate and specialty producers in 2H22 to keep optimism in check. NW Europe natural gas prices rebounded since mid-June and now reflect levels near multi-year highs, elevating many regional chemical sector profit concerns for 2H22. Huntsman announces the divestment of its textile effects business, which we view as a plus for simplifying its story and enhancing its evolution to specialties. We view materials availability, supply chain disruptions, and labor as more significant concerns than capital constraints for many wind and solar projects. US real hourly wages fell YoY in 2Q22, which we view as a negative leading indicator for consumer spending. We also flag the drop in US light vehicle sales
U.S. polymer price premiums relative to Asia are falling amid rising availability, and more pressure is likely ahead. U.S. polyvinyl chloride (PVC) spot values fell the most compared to Asia WoW. Ex-US naphtha values declined relative to ethane values WoW, modestly flattening the global ethylene cost curve at the feedstock level. Brent crude prices also dropped relative to U.S. natural gas. U.S. spot propylene and ethylene values increased WoW relative to N.W. Europe and Asia. This trend is a plus for U.S. merchant sellers but negative for buyers amid derivative product price erosion. Macro indicators for farm-input sellers were mixed but still broadly favorable WoW. Corn, soybean, and canola prices fell a bit WoW, and the price ratio between soybeans and corn improved.
Many are hailing the spending side of the Inflation Reduction Act as a catalyst for real change in climate-related investment and even see positives for fossil fuels. The funding in the bill is spread widely and targets communities and projects – attracting third-party capital will be critical to achieving many goals. CCS is straightforward: the increase in 45Q should get private investment going – other aspects of transition carry risks that may be too high for some investors. We look at the importance of stimulating investment in materials – not just energy and note that we have already seen some prices bounce – like copper. Otherwise, we look at why R-PET prices are collapsing, what LyondellBasell might do with its refinery, CCS in Europe, and Bloom Energy 2Q22 results.
Fertilizer & agricultural chemical equities have outperformed other chemical sub-sectors since June, as crop and energy market trends remain constructive. The US agriculture sector benefits from tight crop conditions supporting farmer spending, while overseas supply issues and low costs benefit fertilizer producers. The energy sector faces long-term demand concerns and ESG pressure, and we think some players will increasingly focus on chemicals to spur long-term growth. Commodity chemical markets should see increased availability, a typical plus for specialty producers. Demand concerns are limiting positive sentiment in both. Otherwise, we note recent weakness in critical energy mineral values, discuss the US inflation reduction act, and study recent declines in global freight rates.