Weekly resin report: Snug supply lifts spot PE, PP prices

Last week’s spot resin trading activity ran at about the same pace as the previous week, which was significantly slower than the first half of the month when processors were eager to back-fill supply requirements, reports the PlasticsExchange (Chicago) in its Market Update. The flow of fresh offers this past week was slower than average, keeping the market for both polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) snuggly supplied.

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PE prices rose again, adding another $0.02 to 0.03/lb on average, as the marketplace braces for the $0.04/lb price increase nominated for February. PP prices were mostly steady to a penny higher, though widespec offers started to come in a bit softer. Export demand is very good, according to the PlasticsExchange: Strong international resin prices, fueled in part by rising crude oil costs, have resin traders looking to North America for competitive supply. 

Spot PE prices continued to rise, as production issues and heavy exports have limited spot availability. Resellers and downstream processors had light inventory coming into the new year and continued to chase supply throughout the month. The PlasticsExchange team reports seeing some pushback this past week, as spot has swung from a discount to premium, but current levels still bode well and tip in favor of the February $0.04/lb increase. LDPE and LLDPE resins for injection are still tight, as are most film grades. During much of 2017, HDPE injection was scarce, but for the past month or so, it has become more available than other commodity resins. Softer pricing for off-grade PE resins also has been observed in Houston. 

The spot PP market continued to transact at an elevated pace. The market has been pushed higher in January by rapidly rising monomer costs and snug resin supplies, which have been tight for months. As PP offers are sold, they have been replaced with higher asking prices, writes the PlasticsExchange in its weekly report, and buyers began to balk as PP moves well into the $0.70 range per pound. January PP contracts will mostly settle up $0.09/lb along with the same rise in monomer. On Friday, Jan. 26, word began to circulate about the propylene rally perhaps coming to an early end, which scattered some PP buyers. This quickly puts to question the longevity of PP maintaining its current lofty level; the PlasticsExchange advises caution.

Read the full Market Update on the PlasticsExchange website.

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