AKRON, OHIO — An unlikely winter price increase has taken hold in the PET bottle resin market, while a seasonal slowdown has driven polypropylene prices down slightly since December.
Meanwhile in polycarbonate, Dow Plastics of Midland, Mich., is attempting to raise prices of film and sheet grades of its Calibre PC by 16 cents effective Jan. 15.
Several buyers nationwide reported seeing PET bottle resin prices increase by 3 cents in early January, while PP prices slipped 1 cent. These changes are reflected in this week's Plastics News resin pricing chart.
The strength of the PET move surprised several buyers since that market typically is stronger in the summer when sales of bottled beverages hit their peak.
One Arizona-based buyer described the PET boost as ``a stealth increase,'' since it happened at a time when market fundamentals were against it. The buyer added that the increase is only the second successful fourth-quarter price increase he has seen in more than 10 years in the industry.
``We felt it was a matter of time before the price would go back and correct itself to where it was,'' the buyer said. ``But all of [our resin agents] wanted to disappear if this increase didn't go through. They didn't want to be the next guy unemployed in the resin business.''
In PP, the slippage was part of ``a seasonal effect,'' according to Tom Sennett, PP business director for Amoco Polymers of Alpharetta, Ga.
``There was a slowdown, but going into 1998, prices are looking pretty stable,'' Sennett said in a recent telephone interview. ``A lot of people will be back up and running and we're already seeing our supply and demand numbers pick up from last quarter.''
Several buyers said the 1 cent December drop could hurt PP makers' chances of passing a 2 cent price increase for Feb. 1.
``It's a finger in the dam,'' an Ohio-based buyer said of the PP increase attempt. ``It's got little or no chance of going through.''
Dow's PC move comes less than three months after it had initiated a 10 cent-per-pound price increase for its film and sheet grades of PC. Dow officials said this earlier increase has taken effect, but the upswing was not confirmed by most buyers contacted.
A Dow spokesman said the company has seen strong growth in appliances such as dishwashers where PC is replacing ABS, and in automotive interior uses where PC is replacing metal.
In other PC pricing areas, market leader GE Plastics still is working to pass through an 8 cent-per-pound increase on its Lexan PC, which was scheduled to take effect in mid-October. Buyers contacted recently said the largest increase they had seen from the Dow and GE attempts was 4 cents per pound.
Buyers seeing a 4 cent price jump said their invoice prices still are within the $1.59-$1.68 per-pound price range for general-purpose PC grades.