After a one-month break, volatility has returned to the North American polypropylene resin market, with prices increasing by an average of 5 cents per pound since Aug. 1.
A surge in price for propylene monomer feedstock played a role in the increase. Supplies of propylene have tightened partly as a result of the temporary loss of more than 1 billion pounds of annual propylene capacity after a fire at a Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. plant in Port Arthur, Texas.
Market analyst Scott Newell with Resin Technology Inc. in Fort Worth, Texas, said the five cents for August “is sticking” because of a combination of “stronger derivative demand…and various supply issues on the (propylene) monomer side.”
Regional PP makers also continue to battle with customers for price increases beyond matching increases in monomer. “The topic of margin expansion will continue to surface, especially as we get closer to 2015,” Newell added.
Prior to being flat in July, regional PP prices had fallen for five consecutive months, bringing prices down a total of 7 cents per pound. Factoring in a 5 cent January hike and this new August hike, regional PP prices are up a net of 3 cents per pound for the year.
Through July, North American PP sales were up 1.5 percent to almost 9.6 billion pounds vs. the same period in 2013, according to the American Chemistry Council in Washington. A gain of 18 percent in export sales boosted a rise of about 1 percent for sales into the domestic market.
Sales of PP into the sheet market continued to post strong growth in North America, climbing almost 11 percent to more than 903 million pounds through July, according to ACC. PP sales into injection molded transportation uses grew almost 8 percent to just under 305 million pounds, while seven-month sales to distributors shot up 15 percent to almost 894 million pounds.