Weekly resin report: Year-end lull in spot resin market punctuated by another PE price slide

In the spot resin market, it’s starting to feel a lot like Christmas—in reverse. While shopping reaches its annual paroxysm in malls and shops, buying and selling activity is winding down in the resin marketplace. Still, the PlasticsExchange (Chicago) is not registering any complaints in its weekly Market Update. While completed volumes were only about average this past week, December started quite strong, it reminds us.

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Fresh polyethylene (PE) rail car offerings have been flowing, and while not overly abundant, suppliers indicated that more is available, if needed. PE prices slid another $0.005 to 0.01/lb and seem to be heading still lower.

Polypropylene (PP) offers have only been trickling in and prices held steady this past week, writes the PlasticsExchange. 

Spot PE trading was challenged by fewer buyer/seller inquiries as the market moves into year-end mode. Prices continued to be pressured by growing supplies and lack of demand, while domestic processors avoided high-volume purchases as they anticipate still lower levels ahead. HDPE supplies have been recovering, joining LDPE resins as the weaker priced materials; LLDPE for film and injection are still relatively snug and have been holding up a bit better. Processors are looking ahead to the first quarter of 2018, when they expect the hurricane-related contract price increases to peel off, which has been foreshadowed by recently falling spot prices, reports the PlasticsExchange. 

PE levels are falling in Houston, too, as producers seek levels to move high incremental volumes offshore. However, Houston area traders are also wary to take in extra inventory, which would be subject to tax. The first quarter of 2018 should see the PE supply situation reverse from tight toward loose, as Harvey becomes an issue of the past and new PE production kicks into full gear, according to the PlasticsExchange. Export channels will likely need to fully re-open to soak up these forthcoming supplies. 

Spot PP prices were flat and firm, as fresh railcar offers were scarce and buyers reluctantly picked away at the lightly available warehoused materials. Despite generally slow order flow, resellers resisted discounting their materials, noting higher replacement costs and a slightly bullish outlook. Moderate volumes of imported PP have hit the shores, sapping some domestic demand, but arbitrage margins are minimal, so few importers are bringing in meaningful supplies of speculative PP resin. December PP contracts could edge up another cent or two, mostly based on very modest cost-push pressure.

Read the full Market Update on the PlasticsExchange website.

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