Weekly resin report: Harvey-driven premiums peel off as spot markets begin slow return to normalcy

While completed volumes in the spot resin markets remained well ahead of historic averages last week, activity has been shifting away from urgent post-hurricane procurement toward a more buy-‘em-as-you-need-‘em dynamic, reports the PlasticsExchange (Chicago) in its Market Update. Although material is still generally tight, domestic demand has slowed, which contributed to a moderate accumulation of offers. This has begun to weigh on both polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) spot prices, where some of the Harvey-driven premiums have begun to peel off. 

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The spot PE market saw a smattering of transactions spread widely across the full slate of commodity grades. Activity was reminiscent of our typical business, writes the PlasticsExchange, as opposed to the mad scramble to secure scarce material seen for much of the past six weeks. All PE producers nominated at least $0.07/lb of price increases with staggered implementation dates through mid-October; this should all be solid, according to the PlasticsExchange. Not so much for the additional $0.04/lb increase several producers have put on the table—with supply conditions normalizing, this extra increase has become questionable. 

As a result of the hurricane-induced supply disruptions, spot PE prices quickly shot up between $0.10 and 0.18/lb. As conditions started to return to a more normal state over the past couple weeks, part of the steep gains have eroded by as much $0.03 to 0.05/lb. However, some PE grades remain very snug, including HDPE co-polymer for both blowmolding and pails, as opposed to HDPE homo-polymer for milk bottles and crates, which is more available. LLDPE hexene is still scarce, though butene is readily available to ship. LDPE film grades have moved from tight to almost loose and these prices have recently been pressured down the most. 

Spot PP trading was very good. While both supply and demand have at times disappointed, this has been a need-driven market, and transactions come together as urgency requires. Prime HoPP and CoPP offers have been hard to come by, but a fairly steady flow of good off-grade railcars has continued to pelt the market and the material has consistently cleared very quickly. HoPP prices rose as much as $0.16/lb in Harvey’s wake, but pulled back a couple cents this past week; CoPP eased an additional penny. 

PP prices mostly gathered in the mid-to-high $0.60/lb range and the PlasticsExchange says that it has seen fierce push-back when presenting offers that start with a 7. Producers averaged a $0.105/lb increase during August and September, supported by a $0.075/lb rise in PGP monomer costs and tight supply/demand dynamics that supported a $0.03/lb margin gain, mostly in September. There are additional increases on the table for October, but the market seems to be losing its upward momentum.

Read the full Market Update on the PlasticsExchange website.

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