Polypropylene and polystyrene resins traveled different roads in North America in July, with PP rising slightly and PS taking a bit of a tumble.
Regional PP prices inched up an average of 0.5 cents per pound, according to buyers contacted by Plastics News. Prices for that material had been flat in June after sliding down 7.5 cents in May and 6 cents in April.
That two-month, 13.5-cent downturn came after prices rose an average of 20.5 cents in the first three months of the year. Looking ahead, regional PP prices in the second half of the year should be more stable than they were in the first half, according to Scott Newell, a PP market analyst with Resin Technology Inc. in Fort Worth, Texas.
"Polymer-grade propylene [monomer] was all over the place in the first half, and that had an effect on pricing," Newell said in an Aug. 9 phone interview. "Demand is doing OK, but that's been volatile as well."
Recent force majeure sales limits put in place by Formosa Plastics Corp. USA in Point Comfort, Texas, haven't had much effect on the North American PP market, he added. Formosa lifted those limits at the end of July.
Essentially, Newell explained, regional PP makers improved their profit margins in 2015 and early 2016, only to lose some of it in the remainder of that year. As a whole, however, those firms remain in better shape in mid-2017 than they were in 2014, he said.
North American PP sales weren't strong in the first half of 2017, increasing almost 1 percent vs. the same period in 2016. Domestic PP sales grew 1.3 percent in that period, while export sales slipped almost 11 percent.
Regional PP makers now are working on a 3-cent increase attempt effective August 1, but Newell said there's a chance that move could be pushed back to September.