Weekly resin report: Commodity PE and PP prices mixed

Spot resin trading remained swift last week, reports the PlasticsExchange (Chicago) in its Market Update, with completed volumes high and heavily skewed toward polyethylene (PE) over polypropylene (PP).

Commodity PE and PP prices were mixed, with a fairly large variance among grades. With the exception of HDPE, there was a healthy flow of fresh PE railcar supply. PP car offers were sporadic and mostly for off-grade homopolymers. Most PE producers seemed to have acquiesced in the contract arena, meeting competitive pricing down $0.03/lb for May, leaving contracts up a net nickel so far in 2017. This should theoretically put an end to the remaining $0.03/lb increase effort that has thrice failed. Most PP resin contracts will decrease $0.075/lb along with a commensurate drop in May PGP monomer. 

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Spot PE trading offers were generally plentiful and the market continued to ease. PE contracts saw a serious swing in May. The month began with producers invoicing contract shipments up another $0.03/lb, attempting to implement their final increase. As reported last week , however, a major producer pushed off the increases until June and contracts appeared to be rolling flat. Shortly thereafter, two other producers abandoned the increase altogether and implemented a net $0.03/lb decrease for May, to which the PlasticsExchange had just one word: Wow! 

This past week, half of the resin clearinghouse’s primary commodity PE grades shed $0.01/lb; however, HMWPE for film saw a steeper $0.025/lb loss, coming a bit closer in line with blowmolding prices. After several weeks of aggressive decline, LDPE for film finally held steady. Domestic buyers greeted the lower levels with purchase orders, and a high volume of resin changed hands across the PlasticsExchange website’s trading floor. HDPE injection remains the anomaly amid super scarce spot supply, surging some $0.015/lb to reach an unprecedented premium of $0.11/lb over the PlasticsExchange benchmark blowmolding price. 

PP trading has started to become challenged both by a lack of quick-ship supply and buyers’ unrealistic pricing expectations. Spot prices edged another half-cent higher, staging a two-week rally that in total has added . . . a penny! Though after 10 weeks of steady declines that eroded a full dime, the market holding firm and slightly reversing is actually a significant development, writes the PlasticsExchange. The April-May contract decrease of $0.135/lb still leaves the 2017 market up $0.07/lb from the first quarter’s $0.205/lb surge. Those holding out for another large decline in June should not hold their breath—the monomer market has stabilized, while PP resin supply/demand dynamics are now leaning slightly bullish. Any added strength from here could even yield a small increase next month. 

Read the full Market Update on the PlasticsExchange website.

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