AKRON, OHIO — North American polypropylene prices took a 1-cent dip in May — far less than the declines seen in the previous two months.
The 1-cent decrease had to come as a bit of a relief to regional PP makers, who had seen resin prices fall 6 cents in March and 10 cents in April. A 21-cent increase deluge that hit the market in the first two months of the year means that regional prices remain up a net of 4 cents so far in 2013.
May's mini-downtick was tied in to lower demand and increasing supplies of propylene monomer feedstock, market watchers said. Some petrochemical refineries that had been down for maintenance have come back online. The market also is seeing increased amounts of propylene from propane dehydrogenation (PDO) units that make propylene on-purpose, as opposed to making it as a by-product of gasoline refining.
Where North American PP buyers are concerned, a 1-cent drop must feel like stability — particularly since the 10-cent drop in April was the 11th time the market has seen a double-digit price movement in the last three years.
U.S./Canadian PP demand has not helped the market much, falling 10 percent in the first quarter of 2013, according to the American Chemistry Council in Washington. That decline includes a domestic sales drop of 8 percent and a 48 percent plunge in export sales. PP sales into injection molded rigid packaging — including cups and containers, caps and closures and crates and totes — were flat during that three-month period.
The acetal correction shows an average price gain of 4 cents per pound. That works out to about 3.5 percent based on prices for copolymer grades of that material. Feedstock economics and higher demand played a role in the increase, sources said. In the first quarter of 2013, sales in Celanese Corp.'s Advanced Engineered Materials unit — including its market-leading acetal business — grew almost 4 percent to $329 million.
In PBT, a 3-cent decline equates to a drop of just over 2 percent. Lower demand for the material was a factor in the decline. The change also affects 30 percent glass-filled grades and flame-retardant grades of PBT on the PN chart.
For PC, an average increase of 6 cents per pound has lifted selling prices just over 3 percent, based on general-purpose grades of PC used in injection molding. Higher demand also played a role in the PC hike, sources said. Even after the recent increase, North American PC prices remain down 8 percent when compared to their mid-2011 peak.