In July, European standard thermoplastics prices fell across the board because of lower raw material costs and weak demand.
Low density polyethylene prices fell by €90 per metric ton, well in excess of the €50 per tonne reduction for the ethylene contract price. Linear low density PE prices fell by slightly more than the cost reduction. The downtrend for high density PE varied between product types; blown film grades saw the largest price reduction, down by €60 per tonne, blow molding prices fell by €50 per tonne and injection molding prices were €45 per tonne lower.
Polypropylene homopolymer prices fell by much more than the €50 per tonne monomer cost, down by €80 per tonne. PP copolymer injection prices were down a little more than the cost reduction.
Base PVC prices fell by more than the proportionate impact of lower ethylene on the cost base; PVC compound prices fell more sharply because of lower ethylene and additive costs.
General-purpose polystyrene prices fell in line with the €87 per tonne fall in the styrene monomer reference price; high-impact PS prices were down by €100 per tonne.
PET prices showed early signs that at long last they may be bottoming out. Bottle-grade PET prices were mostly unchanged for larger customers where many contracts are linked to cost, and fell slightly for smaller buyers.
European producers continued to restrict output at polymer plants in order to better match material availability with the low demand and to avoid a build-up of inventories. Polyolefin supply was bolstered by a steady inflow of imported material; Imports of PVC and PET, on the other hand, were lower in July. Several planned and unplanned plant outages further restrained material availability.
Problems with the European supply of styrene are worsening. BASF shut down its Ludwigshafen styrene plant July 28. The Terneuzen, Belgium, plant run by U.S. supplier Trinseo has halted output due to impaired supply. LyondellBasell and Covestro recently suspended joint styrene production at their Dutch site in Maasvlakte, the Netherlands with the plant expected to remain offline until at least the end of August. A maintenance shutdown of another major plant in Germany is also on the agenda.
Planned and unplanned plant shutdowns in other polymer sectors include;
- TotalEnergies declared force majeure at its Feluy plant in Belgium on July 25 due to technical problems said to be impacting polypropylene production.
- Versalis announced a planned shutdown at its LDPE production site in Italy on July 13.
- BorsodChem shut down its S-PVC plant in Hungary on July 1 for maintenance with restart scheduled for 1st September.
Demand remained very much lower than would normally be expected across all product sectors and end use markets during the peak summer holiday season. However, the lower prices on offer during July persuaded some converters to top-up inventories.
During the first two weeks of August, polyolefin prices were largely unchanged following a rollover for the ethylene contract price. However, producers may be forced to reduce prices over the remainder of the month to encourage sales.
Polystyrene prices are surging in early August trading because of a sharp rise in spot styrene prices and an increase of €108 per tonne for the styrene monomer reference price. Styrene supply has tightened considerably because of a series of planned and unplanned plant outages.
Base PVC prices were down by €10-20 per tonne and may crumble further as the month progresses.
PET prices are firming slightly during the first two weeks of August following an increase in feedstock costs, lower imports and a slight improvement in demand.