Resin pricing report sends mixed signals; BASF declares force majeure on PA 66

Spot resin sales remained strong last week, despite some softness in prices, reports the Plastics Exchange (Chicago). Logistical issues backing up railcars in Houston, which prompted just-in-time demand, were among the drivers. Lower resin prices, particularly in the Asian region, are pressuring export markets, with competitive offers from other regions also complicating spot exports to Latin America. While the Houston gulf has avoided problematic hurricanes the past several years, the wicked weather system that ran through Houston early in the week was a reminder of the area's vulnerability.

 

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Image courtesy Cool Design/freedigitalphotos.net.

The spot ethylene market saw moderate activity with prices trending higher. Ethylene for June delivery continued to trade within a tight range, closing out the week at $0.36125/lb, up just more than a half cent. Ethylene's forward curve remains fairly flat, with prices through the end of 2016 still very close to prompt levels.

The polyethylene (PE) markets remained active, although spot prices were mildly weaker, according to the Plastics Exchange. June PE contracts will settle flat, with a 5 cent increase still nominated for July. The spot market lost a half cent this week, and sits a penny and half off the month's opening level. May upstream inventory additions nearly replaced April's draw, so the market is again a bit heavy, though it is still early with plenty of time for new developments.

The spot propylene market crept higher, inching up each day before finally trading at $0.3775/lb, up more than a penny from last week. Forward prices were indicated up to $0.425/lb by the end of next year.

The polypropylene (PP) market felt pressured with supplies continuing to improve, but average prices managed to hold steady. May's sales figures were above the 12-month trailing average for the third month in a row, drawing down inventories to Q3 2014 levels. Whether it was a hedge against potential disruptions or additional upward pressure to help secure some of the outstanding margin enhancing a $0.05/lb price increase, at least one PP producer nominated another $0.05/lb increase for mid-July.

For the full weekly report, go to the Plastics Exchange website.

BASF déclares force majeure for polyamide 66

In related materials news last week, BASF (Ludwigshafen, Germany) has declared force majeure for polyamide 66 compounds, effective June 17, because of production problems at at its Hexamethylenediamine (HMD) plant in Seal Sands, UK. In making the announcement, BASF said that it is in no position to predict how long the situation will last. This latest declaration of force majeure from a major chemicals company comes at a time when plastics-related associations are bemoaning an "epidemic" of such cases that pose an "existential threat" for European manufacturers, according to the European Plastics Converters Association. For more on this, read the article by Karen Laird, "Raw material shortages, spiraling prices threaten German plastic packaging producers."

Also last week, Honeywell Resins and Chemicals (Morris Township, NJ) announced a price increase of 3 cents per pound for its phenol and acetone products. The increases will be effective for phenol shipments on July 1, 2015 and acetone shipments on June 22, 2015, or as contracts allow, said the company in a news release. "The company re-evaluated its pricing on its phenol and acetone products in response to market conditions and raw material costs," added Honeywell Resins and Chemicals by way of explanation in a news release.

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