Weekly resin report: Polypropylene trading picks up steam

The spot resin markets remained slower than average as April trading ran into the home stretch, reports the PlasticsExchange (Chicago) in its Market Update covering the week of April 23. Polyethylene (PE) prices were steady to lower, while spot polypropylene (PP) prices added a cent. Completed volumes were split almost evenly between PE and PP, highlighting quiet PE market conditions more than a super-active PP market.

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While most producers have suspended the April $0.03/lb increase until May, some are still seeking at least a split implementation based on grade either for April or May. Although exports have started to show signs of improvement as Houston prices slide, we have yet to see a major uptick in PE exports to support the added production seen so far in 2018, writes the PlasticsExchange. Inventories are accumulating at the producer level at a very rapid rate. 

Spot PE trading picked up slightly as April drew toward a close, though activity still lacked luster. Buyers were quiet, sensing no real threat of rising prices as most producers pushed off the April increase, casting doubt on any success in May. Downstream market participants tend to believe that the next market move seems to be pointing to lower prices. However, resellers were not overly eager to lower prices to move material since most of them have already thinned out their inventories. These two factors contributed to subpar trading volumes.

The same cannot be said for collective producer inventories, as April began at the highest level since the PlasticsExchange started tracking this data in 2006, logging the largest one month gain in 24 months. Spot PE prices were mixed: High-molecular-weight PE dropped $0.02/lb as availability improved; low-density PE and linear-low-density PE injection grades held steady; while a penny decline was seen in high-density PE for blowmold and injection, as well as in low-density and linear-low-density PE film grades. 

Spot PP trading this past week was the most active of the month. Some processors filled in supply gaps, while others, recognizing modest upward pressure in contract pricing, were willing to secure additional material beyond current needs. Resin availability saw moderate improvement, more so for off grade than prime, and completed volumes of homopolymer PP exceeded co-polymer PP. 

Despite the steady flow of fresh offers, the PlasticsExchange said that it continues to maintain a somewhat bullish outlook on this market due to overall snug supplies, stable PGP monomer pricing and attempts for margin expansion by producers. The resins clearinghouse believes some of the increase will take hold during the second quarter. 

Read the full Market Update on the PlasticsExchange website.

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