The end of 2016 came with more North American price drops for polyethylene and polypropylene and a surprising price hike for PET bottle resin.
Regional prices for all grades of high, low and linear low density PE fell an average of 2 cents per pound in December. Softer demand played a role in the decline, as did momentum from a 3-cent drop that hit the market in November.
Prior to the two year-end price declines, regional PE prices had been flat in five of the previous six months. The only price movement for the market came in September, when prices jumped 5 cents per pound on short-term inventory tightness.
U.S./Canadian PE demand growth was mixed in the first 11 months of 2016, according to the American Chemistry Council. Regional sales of HDPE were up more than 2 percent, while sales of LLDPE essentially were flat and those of LDPE declined more than 2 percent.
Domestic HDPE sales growth of more than 1 percent was boosted by a gain of more than 5 percent in export sales for the 11-month period. The LDPE market saw domestic sales growth of almost 2 percent wiped out by a plunge of more than 14 percent in export sales. In LLDPE, domestic sales growth of almost 1 percent was balanced out by an export sales drop of more than 1 percent.
The PE price drop ran counter to changes in price for crude oil, which affect PE pricing on a macro level. West Texas Intermediate crude prices began December around $52 per barrel, but were near $52.50 by the end of the month.