With the last price increase still rolling through the marketplace and a number of producers nervous about a federal investigation into price-setting prac-tices, two polyethylene makers announced new price increases for March 1. Dow Chemical Co. of Midland, Mich., announced a 5 cent-per-pound increase, and Exxon Chemical Co. of Houston announced a 3 cent-per-pound hike.
Separately, several polypropylene and polystyrene resin companies announced March 1 price hikes.
Len Azzaro, director of marketing for Dow's Packaging, Polyolefins and Elastomer Group, said in a Feb. 1 telephone interview that Dow based its decision on de-mand which, he said, has not changed since the last half of 1994.
``Demand for all grades of polyethylene is still strong, and inventories are still low,'' Azzaro said.
``We went into the new year with low inventory positions, and January was typical, but we needed that month to build inventories,'' Azzaro said.
He indicated that inventories again may drop in February, March and April.
``We are sold out, and working on demand management, which is the same as order control, for low density, linear low density and high density polyethylene products,'' Azzaro said.
A softening in the demand for PE predicted in December by Anthony Carbone, group vice president for Dow Plastics, did not oc-cur and is not expected, Azzaro said.
However, executives of several film manufacturing companies said price increases that were announced for December have not taken hold completely, an indication that Carbone's prediction was accurate. The film makers spoke only on condition that they not be identified.
The film makers said they were surprised by the new price announcements, and said they believed prices had reached a plateau in anticipation of new production capacity for ethylene being put in place by Dow and for PE by Union Carbide.
In an unrelated development, a spokesman confirmed Feb. 2 that the Justice Department is investigating the PE resin industry.
``We are looking into the possibility of anti-competitive prac-tices in the polyethylene resin industry,'' according to the spokesman.
PE company executives said the investigation has made them nervous when talking about pricing and market conditions.
In a separate announcement, the PP business unit of Novacor Chemicals Inc. in Marysville, Mich., Fina Oil and Chemical Co. of Dallas and Rexene Corp. of Dallas, announced they would increase PP prices on March 1 by 3 cents per pound; and Dow, Huntsman Chemical Co. of Salt Lake City, Chevron Chemical Co. of Houston and Fina announced they would increase PS prices on March 1 by 4 cents per pound.