North American selling prices for PVC and polypropylene resins went in different directions in February, with PVC moving up an average of 2 cents per pound and PP decreasing an average of 1.5 cents.
The 2-cent PVC hike was the result of higher prices in the export market, one market source told Plastics News. Higher demand from the construction market and low resin inventories also played a role in the increase.
The February hike ended a streak of nine consecutive months of flat pricing for North American PVC. Market prices have not moved since April, with supply and demand being closely balanced. Regional PVC prices were up a net of 3 cents in 2018.
U.S. and Canadian PVC sales were solid in 2018, climbing 3 percent vs. the previous year, according to the American Chemistry Council. Domestic PVC sales were flat, but the overall growth rate was bolstered by a jump of 10 percent in export sales.
Among PVC end markets, sales into pipe — which generated 46 percent of domestic demand — were flat, but sales of PVC into extruded windows and doors showed strong growth of almost 27 percent.
The PP decline came as resin prices once again followed those of polymer-grade propylene monomer feedstock. Regional PP prices now have tumbled 21.5 cents per pound since November, including a 2-cent decline in January.
Market analyst Scott Newell said further price decreases for both propylene and for PP resin could be on the way for March. "The question is 'Where is the bottom?' " he added in an email. "There's so much inventory of monomer, and polymer [resin] that prices are dropping in search of demand."
"In the process, the market will likely find price points that will curb supply as well," said Newell, who is with Resin Technology Inc. in Fort Worth, Texas. "Only then will the market begin to balance."
Full-year 2018 North American PP sales were down 0.5 percent, according to ACC, with a plunge of more than 30 percent in export sales canceling out an increase of less than 0.5 percent in domestic sales. Among major end markets, sales of PP into sheet were up more than 5 percent in 2019.
But market watchers said regional PP production issues caused a large amount of the resin to be imported into North America during 2018. As a result, true North American PP consumption likely grew 3-4 percent for the year.