Poor demand and falling feedstocks pushed polyethylene (PE) spot prices further down, according to spot-trading platform, The Plastics Exchange (TPE; www.theplasticsexchange.com) and its reporting partner, The PetroChem Wire (www.thepetrochemwire.com). Some reports put PE production rates at 50%, as producers work to match falling domestic and export demand, with their output. At the same time, TPE reports that processors are running inventories as lean as possible, opting to purchase truckloads instead of railcars, and only when absolutely necessary. Some increased activity was seen at the end of the week, with lower prices bringing buyers back to the market. PE contracts are down roughly $0.20/lb in November, with October PE contracts down $0.11/lb and September contracts off $0.07/lb. Prior to the market’s peak, PE contracts increased $0.18/lb during 2008, but this recent market move has seen contract prices lowered by $0.38/lb, leaving current prices at levels not seen since 2004. Domestic railcars of generic-prime PE were generally priced in the higher $0.30’s/lb.
TPE reports similar issues at play with polypropylene (PP), with sagging demand and monomer prices, pushing production rates in some instances to below 75%. The fall in prices has been precipitous, with summer highs that were near $1.00/lb plummeting to the low $0.30’s/lb for generic-prime material. Homopolymer PP was trading in the mid $0.30’s/lb early in the week, but domestic railcar offers fell to the low $0.30’s/lb cpp by Friday, with TPE encountering some multiple-car offers into the $0.20’s/lb. The premium on copolymer PP was $0.01-$0.02/lb. PP contract prices are down $0.30/lb in November, after falling $0.25/lb between September and October.
Spot polystyrene (PS) availability increased as prices slid, with TPE encountering imported material being offered to the U.S. at “aggressive” prices. High-impact PS ended the week in the low-$0.70’s/lb, with general-purpose PS in the low-to-mid $0.60’s/lb as prices fell about $0.06 from last week.