Polyethylene (PE) spot prices rose last week, with traders telling trading platform The Plastics Exchange (TPE) and its reporting partner, PetroChem Wire, that spot availability remained limited. Producers are seeking a $0.03/lb increase in May contracts, but some converters have argued weak demand means increases are not warranted. However, recent spikes in petroleum, NGLs (natural-gas liquids), and monomers, plus tight PE supply, could equate to a contract increase. Pricing was flat in March and April after rising by $0.07/lb in January and February. Domestic spot availability has been scarce, with incremental volume from PE producers offered to the market and drawing a price premium. Spot PE prices were up about a half-cent last week, and have risen roughly 1.5 cents from end-April levels. High-density polyethylene (HDPE) blowmold, injection, and film grades are in the low-to-mid $0.40s/lb. Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) film is in the high $0.40s to low $0.50s/lb, with high molecular weight HDPE film in the mid-to-high $0.40s/lb. Compared to year-ago levels, market participants tell TPE that domestic demand remains weak, but export interest continues, with traders bidding for PE, particularly HDPE blowmold and LLDPE film, for shipment to Asia. Preliminary figures released by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) show that U.S. domestic PE production rose 3.3% in April from March to 3.096 billion lb. Total PE sales were up 3.4% at 2.878 billion lb, with PE exports rising 1.8% to 672 million lb and accounting for 23% of total sales.
Polypropylene (PP) traded higher in the spot market, propelled by higher monomer costs and continued export demand. Producers are seeking to boost PP contracts by $0.03/lb in May. Market participants said that prices are up about 2.5 cents, which is in line with propylene monomer. Traders said there was more PP availability in the spot secondary market last week, but due to continued strength in the propylene, buyers are snatching up spot PP when it becomes available. Generic-prime homopolymer PP was trading in the low-to-mid $0.40s/lb last week, with the lower end reflecting the domestic railcar market and the higher end tracking bagged material in Houston area warehouses. Copolymer PP was at a premium of about 1.5 cents, with overall PP spot prices up about $0.03/lb from end-April levels. Exporters have snapped up spot PP, mostly for shipment to Asia, but backlogs at bagging facilities through June have limited the ability for greater export activity. U.S. domestic PP production rose 11.9% in April from March levels to 1.431 billion lb, according to preliminary ACC data. Total sales gained 10.4% to 1.468 billion lb, while exports from the U.S. jumped 18.6% to 283 million lb, accounting for 19.3% of April’s total sales.
Polystyrene (PS) spot prices were steady last week, with high-impact polystyrene (HIPS) remaining in the low-to-mid $0.50s/lb, and general-purpose polystyrene (GPPS) in the high $0.40s to low $0.50s/lb. ACC’s preliminary data show that PS sales rose 6.8% to 412 million lb in April, while exports fell 2.1% to 25 million lb. —[email protected]