Some commodity resins did well domestically in the first half of 2017, but the materials overall didn't set the North American market on fire, with no resin reaching 2 percent overall growth.
Linear low density polyethylene led the way with 1.6 percent overall sales growth in the U.S. and Canada, according to the American Chemistry Council in Washington. Strong domestic growth of almost 4 percent was hampered by a drop of 6 percent in export sales. Overall LLDPE sales volume for the half was just over 7.4 billion pounds.
Low density PE managed first-half U.S./Canadian growth of 1.1 percent to almost 3.6 billion pounds. A domestic sales loss of just over 1 percent was reversed by an export sales gain of almost 8 percent.
North American polypropylene sales ticked up 0.9 percent to almost 8.7 billion pounds for the six-month period, with domestic growth of 1.3 percent dampened by a drop of almost 11 percent in export sales. PVC showed similar sales growth of 0.7 percent — to almost 7.9 billion pounds — in the U.S. and Canada. For that material, solid domestic growth of almost 4 percent was reduced by an almost 6 percent drop in sales to export markets.
High density PE and solid polystyrene each posted lower sales in the first half than they did for the same period in 2016. The HDPE picture was similar to that of LLDPE and PVC but even more extreme. Overall sales fell 3.2 percent to just under 9.4 billion pounds, with domestic sales growth of almost 4 percent wiped out by an export sales drop of 25 percent.
Solid PS saw North American sales decline 1.5 percent to just under 2.2 billion pounds for the half. A domestic sales loss of 1.6 percent was softened a bit by a gain of more than 3 percent in export sales.
The impact of export sales varied greatly from resin to resin in the first half. Exports accounted for 30 percent of regional PVC sales, almost 26 percent of LDPE sales and almost 22 percent of LDPE sales for the period.
Exports played a lesser role in HDPE, with an 18 percent first-half share. And they played a much smaller role in PP and PS, accounting for about 3 percent of total sales for each of those materials.
Among domestic end markets, HDPE saw blazing first-half growth of almost 21 percent into pipe and conduit. That included a jump of 31 percent for sales of HDPE into water pipe. Domestic sales growth for LLDPE was led by food packaging, where sales increased more than 6 percent.
Although LDPE saw an overall domestic sales loss, sales of the material into non-packaging film grew almost 6 percent. For PP, sales into the sheet market surged almost 8 percent for the half.
PVC saw major domestic growth in its flagship rigid pipe and tubing sector, where sales grew almost 6 percent. Domestic PS sales found a bright spot in the electrical/electronic segment, where sales showed a first-half gain of more than 2 percent.