Weekly resin report: PE prices swing widely, depending on grade

After two slow weeks, spot resin trading improved considerably the week of Feb. 5, with transactions reverting to the very active pace seen in the first half of January, reports the PlasticsExchange (Chicago) in its Market Update.

Cool Design
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Processors adopted a more aggressive buyer persona, while supply generally remained constrained amid production complications and heavy exports. Polyethylene (PE) prices were mixed; polypropylene (PP) slid another cent, which was attributed to monomer weakness. The flow of fresh prime railcar offers has been limited, though wide-spec remains more available and is priced at a decent discount, especially in Houston, writes the PlasticsExchange in its weekly report. Export pricing could ease, as weaker crude oil markets translate to lower international feedstock and PE costs, effectively softening the clearing level for incremental volumes of resin. 

PE trading was much more active last week, with large volumes of resin transacted across the full slate of commodity resins. Prices, however, were widely mixed, reflecting the very real differences between grades in the spot market. High-molecular-weight PE for film jumped $0.03/lb, as a major producer declared force majeure on this resin after more than a month of production issues. High-density PE for blowmolding remained snugly supplied and prices added a cent. Low-density PE for film and injection both edged higher, while injection-grade high-density PE and linear low-density PE butene both lost a little ground. It appears that PE producers will be successful in implementing their $0.04/lb increase for February; some have also issued a $0.03/lb increase for March. 

Spot PP prices slid another cent, bringing the two-week loss to a nickel. The market has been retreating from this cycle’s peak pricing seen in January—those strong gains were based on cost-push pressures, which now have largely been relieved. We could see a bit more softness ahead, according to the PlasticsExchange, as contract prices are set to decline in March. However, PP supply and demand remains categorically tight and can help support spot price levels. While suppliers have already been lowering asking prices to move uncommitted inventory, many grades remain hard to source and still command a premium.

Read the full Market Update on the PlasticsExchange website.

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