High and linear low density polyethylene, as well as PVC, enjoyed sales gains in the U.S. and Canada during the first half of 2011, but sales for low density PE and polypropylene struggled.
PVC led the way among those five commodity resins in the first half with a sales gain of 5.6 percent, according to the American Chemistry Council in Washington. All of that gain came from export sales, which grew more than 27 percent as domestic PVC sales fell almost 3 percent.
The domestic PVC market continues to be affected by weak construction demand. PVC's flagship rigid pipe and tubing end market still accounted for more than 40 percent of first-half sales, yet fell almost 2 percent vs. the first half of 2010. Sales of film and sheet provided a bright spot for the domestic PVC market with growth of more than 4 percent.
U.S./Canadian sales of HDPE grew 3.8 percent in the first half, according to ACC, as domestic growth of 4.5 percent was tempered by an export market that was essentially flat. A large part of HDPE's domestic growth came from the pipe and conduit market, which surged more than 16 percent in the first half.
Sales of LLDPE in the U.S. and Canada eked out a gain of 1.6 percent in the first half, with domestic growth of more than 4 percent watered down by a drop of almost 6 percent in exports. LLDPE sales into shrink/stretch film for packaging zoomed up 16 percent in the first half.
LDPE and PP markets are looking to recover in the second half of 2011 after each saw sales recede in the first half. U.S./Canadian LDPE sales dipped 1.1 percent, according to ACC. Domestic sales grew almost 1 percent, but that growth was negated by a drop of more than 9 percent in export sales. LDPE sales into extrusion coating — including paperboard — soared more than 9 percent in the first half.
For PP in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, first-half sales tumbled 6 percent. A domestic sales drop of almost 5 percent was worsened by a drop of almost 19 percent in export sales.
But a few bright spots persisted in PP's gloom: Sales into injection molded cups and containers grew almost 10 percent in the first half; PP sales into sheet applications climbed more than 6 percent.