KUALA LUMPUR—Natural rubber prices are expected to sustain recent gains, supported by a range of developments in the supply/demand situation and in the international trade arena, according to the Malaysian Rubber Board.
In its February review, the MRB reported prices strengthening for a range of NR grades during the month—including SMR 20, up 17.2 percent to about $1.80 per kilogram, and latex concentrate, which surged 29.3 percent to about $1.68 a kilogram.
As well as tighter supply after the wintering season in some producer countries, the Kuala Lumpur rubber market was buoyed by "global COVID-19 vaccination progress, optimism on U.S.-China relations, a weaker (Malaysian) ringgit (and) the $1.9 trillion stimulus in the U.S."
Gains, however, were "capped by the absence of the Chinese market players and slower manufacturing activities in China from the Lunar New Year break," according to the Malaysian body.
MRB also noted new figures for 2020 from the Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries, showing a 7.7 percent decline in world NR production, to 12.8 million metric tons, compared to a 6.9 percent drop in world demand at 12.83 million tons.
Other factors influencing NR traders included crude oil prices, international currency movements and trader-sentiment in regional rubber futures markets.
Meanwhile, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers reported automotive vehicles sales in the country had surged 30 percent year-on-year in January, to around 2.5 million vehicles.
On the other hand, MRB reported losses in some regional rubber futures markets on "profit-taking by investors" and concerns that OPEC would increase crude-oil supply to capitalize on rising prices and demand.
Market sentiment, it added, also was dampened by official data showing that Malaysian NR production increased 17.1 percent in December 2020 to 49,825 tons, up from 42,554 tons in the previous month.
Indonesia, meanwhile, has increased the maximum size of new rubber plantations to 23,000 hectares from 20,000 hectares previously, MRB also noted.