Weekly resin report: PE prices continue to unwind; PP, not so much

Plastics processors had yet more reasons to be grateful after Thanksgiving weekend, as spot polyethylene (PE) resin prices continued to erode another $0.01 to 0.03/lb. Trading picked up significantly after the long weekend, reports the PlasticsExchange (Chicago) in its Market Update. Demand was robust, and while PE offers were again not overly voluminous, negative sentiment has had a grip on the market, causing prices to continue their downward trend. 

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Polypropylene (PP), on the other hand, has maintained its strength and even rose another penny this past week, amid tight supply/demand dynamics and firm monomer costs. Houston prices, in general, have been sliding, seeking a level to trigger significant incremental demand. While this could typically be a seasonally weak period for international resin purchases, rising energy costs are buoying regional resin prices, helping to close the gap. 

After a shortened holiday week, both buyers and sellers were ready to transact, as PE prices continued to unwind, giving back more of the sharp premiums in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Resellers maintained their desire to liquidate uncommitted materials, while buyers were happy to pick off packaged truckloads and fresh bulk railcars at discounted levels, according to the PlasticsExchange. HDPE for blowmolding initially rallied the most, rising $0.185/lb. It is still holding on to $0.075/lb of gains . . . for now. LDPE for injection had risen the least—just a dime—and has already given back $0.09/lb. HDPE for injection gained a huge premium during the summer, then added another $0.145/lb after the storm. Since then, it has fallen a whopping $0.19/lb, the only grade to dip below pre-Harvey levels (by $0.045/lb). 

A series of price increases since August varied by amount and implementation date; it seems that $0.10/lb on average took hold, but perhaps not for all. With the spot market falling as sharply as it has, the PlasticsExchange said that it would not consider any further contract advancement and expects to see contract prices begin to decline, maybe as early as December. 

Spot PP trading improved last week. Supplies generally have been snug, and certain grades, particularly high-melt-flow materials—both HoPP and CoPP, PP Random Clarified and CoPP No Break—are outright difficult to source. Despite the fact that PE prices are coming back down hard, PP market fundamentals are quite different and, to buyers’ frustrations, prices remain firm to higher. Producers have responded to rising prices and good demand with added production, running reactors as close to capacity as practical. This has helped to keep a lid on PP prices, but follow-through strength could continue. PP contracts in November rose $0.02/lb on average, half for the cost increase and a penny for margin.

Read the full Market Update on the PlasticsExchange website.

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