Polyethylene (PE) spot prices firmed last week as supply remained tight and export interest continued, according to spot-trading platform The Plastics Exchange (TPE), and its reporting partner, the PetroChem Wire. Producers have proposed a $0.03/lb increase this month for contracts, but May pricing has not been finalized. Some processors point to recent weakness in ethylene monomer as a reason to hold prices level. In addition to tight inventory controls by producers, PE spot availability remains thin due to strong PE prices in Asia relative to the U.S. pushing any additional material into the export market. High-density polyethylene (HDPE) blowmold and injection grades, as well as linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) film butene, traded in the low-to-mid $0.40s/lb this week. Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) film was in the high $0.40s to low $0.50s/lb, with high molecular weight HDPE film transacting in the high $0.40s/lb. Overall, spot prices are up about 2.5 cents from end-April levels. Export interest held, especially from China, but regular inquiries also came through from Latin America, where supplies are said to be tight. TPE reports that since many Houston bagging facilities are booked through the end of June, many traders are reluctant to do deals further out over concerns that prices may soon fall in China.
Polypropylene (PP) spot prices held firm this week, with TPE reporting bullish sentiment amid a recent surge in propylene spot prices, PP production issues, and availability concerns. Producers had proposed a $0.03/lb contract increase for May PP, but market participants report only a 2.5-cent increase thus far. Spot trading was thin, with buyers picking up whatever material was available as propylene prices surged. Here, too, tight producer inventories and Asian export demand have kept the market snug.
Homopolymer PP prices were in the low-to-mid $0.40s/lb, with copolymer PP trading at a 1.5-cent premium. Limited bagging capacity has depressed export demand, and traders are closely watching Asian inquiries, with that market slowing. In production news, Sunoco declared force majeure for its polymers business, following a May 17 fire in its ethylene unit. As a result, PP units are operating at reduced rates for an undetermined period of time at Marcus Hook, PA, with the fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) unit at the refinery shutdown.
Polystyrene (PS) spot prices were higher last week, with traders reporting there is very little material available to transact in the spot secondary market. High-impact PS was in the mid $0.50s/lb, with general-purpose PS in the high $0.40s/lb to low $0.50s/lb. Overall, spot prices were up about a penny from the week prior. —[email protected]