Weekly resin report: PE prices soften

The spot resin markets began the week quietly, but activity picked up steam in the first days of August. Prime polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) prices were mostly steady, with occasional exceptions to the downside, reports the PlasticsExchange (Chicago) in its Market Update. Overall transacted volumes were ultimately robust and heavily weighted in favor of PE over PP.

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Export interest from Latin America and Europe remained healthy, while traders serving the Chinese market remained cautious because of the looming tariffs. PE producers are taking another crack at their oft-attempted $0.03/lb price increase; PP producers will pass through the likely $0.03 to 0.04/lb PGP monomer cost increase that could materialize in August. 

The spot PE market continued to transact at a hectic pace after activity fired up midweek to begin August. There was a steady flow of offers, and resin availability was liquid for almost all commodity grades. Buyers seemed to step up their order size, with the PlasticsExchange reporting that total transacted volumes were driven more by railcar deals than spot truckloads. Sellers were not shy about offering resin, either, and nice discounts were available for good off-grade domestic railcars, while prices also were a tad softer in Houston.

Most Generic Prime grades managed flat, though high-density PE for blowmolding and low-density (LD) PE for film each slid a cent. Over the past month, premiums have deteriorated for previously tight resins such as LDPE and linear-low-density PE for injection, as inventories continue to swell at the producer level and resin availability improves. The July $0.03/lb contract increase was again rolled over to August; however, implementation seems unlikely with a possible decrease on the horizon given the negative spot pricing trend. 

PP trading was average, at best, as spot demand seemed to wane. Off-grade prices were steady to soft, while Prime held its $0.02/lb increase from the previous week. Overall prime PP availability was scarce, while there was a good flow of off-grade railcars that continued to pelt the market, according to the PlasticsExchange. 

Current warehoused supplies of prime imported material have diminished, though there is more material on the water heading to U.S. shores. Processors that could handle good off-grade resins picked away to fill in supply gaps. The more specialty grades of commodity copolymer PP, like Random Clarified and No Break, are still hard to find and command a premium, if available. A slight quantity of homopolymer PP Raffia trickled back into the market, but, in general, this grade still remains tight. PP buyers should expect to see a moderate contract increase based on stronger spot PGP monomer levels. 

Read the full Market Update on the PlasticsExchange website.

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