North American prices for PVC and PET resins traveled in different directions in March, with PVC rising by an average of 3 cents per pound and PET sliding by a penny.
A 3-cent price hike for grades of suspension PVC is becoming standard issue for that market. It's the third straight month that such a hike has taken hold. This sequence isn't sitting well with PVC buyers in the region.
“Business is down, so taking the full three will be hard on us,” a PVC buyer in the southern U.S. told Plastics News. “But with resin still somewhat tight, we may have to take it.”
PVC makers in the region have countered that the increases are warranted because of supply tightness caused by recent disruptions in production. OxyVinyls and Westlake Chemicals Corp. had been on control distribution with customers because of limited ethylene supplies. OxyVinyls also has had production challenges because of cold weather.
Prior to this string of 3-cent increases, regional PVC prices had been flat since falling a penny per pound in October. For the first two months of 2014, U.S./Canadian PVC sales were down almost 4 percent, according to the American Chemistry Council in Washington, as rough winter weather slowed construction, even in parts of the U.S. that normally do not experience harsh conditions.
Export sales fell 13 percent in that period vs. the same two months in 2013, and domestic sales rose less than 1 percent. Markets for extruded windows and doors and wire and cable provided bright spots for domestic PVC sales for the period, with PVC sales into extruded windows and doors up more than 8 percent and into wire and cable up almost 6 percent, according to ACC.
U.S. housing starts for February checked in at an annual rate of 907,000, according to the National Association of Home Builders in Washington. That's more than 6 percent below the market's pace in February 2013. Construction activity accounts for about 60 percent of domestic PVC consumption.
In PET, bottle resin prices fell for the third straight month, as a result of lower feedstock prices and weak beverage demand — particularly in carbonated soft drinks and bottled water — again resulting somewhat from the harsh winter.
Regional PET prices had fallen a penny in January and 2 cents in February before the 1-cent March drop. That 4 cents of total volatility has the market on pace to surpass the 12 cents of volatility that it showed for all of 2013. The 2013 total, however, was low by historical standards.