According to plastics trading platform, The Plastics Exchange (TPE; Chicago), spot-trading volume for polyethylene (PE) was very high, prompting volatile, higher prices (for more detailed pricing information, including historical charts, go to www.theplasticsexchange.com). TPE reports that traders and exporters looked to liquidate their positions early in the week, pushing prices lower, but by the middle of the week, May PE contracts pushed up $0.04/lb. With the dollar up 2% from recent lows, export prices dropped a couple cents, and international interest in North American PE remains strong. Natural gas lost $0.34/mm Btu for the week, finishing at $7.795/mm Btu for July delivery. Ethylene monomer was up $0.0075/lb, closing at $0.3875/lb, which is $0.06/lb lower than May. TPE reports that nearly halfway through 2007, PE producers have recorded $0.10/lb of contract resin price increases, in spite of the fact that ethylene is only up $0.03/lb over the same time.
In polypropylene (PP), TPE found very high trading volumes with strong contract prices but weak prices on the spot market. Prices could go up on the basis of a $0.04/lb increase for May propylene contracts. A surplus of generic prime railcars could depress market prices, however. Generic prime homopolymer PP railcars can be had for the low $0.60s/lb, with good offgrade PP in the middle-to-high $0.50s/lb, and poor quality struggling to hit the $0.50s/lb. The export demand found in PE is not present in PP. Refinery grade propylene is off $0.05/lb thus far in May, and it closed last Friday at $0.465/lb.
In polystyrene (PS), spot-trading volume was below average according to TPE, with steady-to-higher prices. Prices climbed past the mid $0.70s/lb, into the higher $0.70s/lb, and with few spot offers, processors have been forced to accept the contracts. Producers have been reluctant to increase production on the basis of high feedstock costs. Prime PS was up $0.05/lb in May, with a $0.03/lb increase proposed for June, and the prospect of $0.80/lb PS in the near future becoming more likely.