Standard thermoplastic resin prices in Europe moved higher because of rising feedstock costs during the first two weeks of February.
Polyethylene prices increased by 60-80 euros per metric ton, which was slightly less than the €85 per tonne rise in the ethylene reference price. Polypropylene prices matched the €80 per tonne rise of for the propylene reference price.
PVC prices increased €20-30 per tonne at the start of February after nine months of price declines. Polystyrene prices edged slightly higher during the first half of February after the styrene monomer reference price increased by €10 per tonne.
In January, standard thermoplastic classes, with the exception of polystyrene, saw a steep price reduction because of falling feedstock costs and weak demand.
Polystyrene prices bucked the downward price trend after steep cost increases for precursors benzene and styrene monomer of €145 per tonne and €115 per tonne, respectively. As a result, polystyrene prices gained €100 per tonne.
Low density PE and linear low density prices fell by €70-80 per tonne, which was less than the €95 per tonne reduction in the cost of ethylene, largely because of energy cost pass-through. High density PE blow molding and blown film prices fell €70 per tonne whereas injection molding prices fell only by €60 per tonne, due largely to higher demand.
PP prices fell €70-80 euros tonne against a decline of €95 per tonne for the propylene reference price. Producers cited higher energy costs as a reason for restricting price discounts to below the cost reduction.
PVC prices remained under pressure from lower costs, weak demand and imports at the start of the new year. Base PVC prices fell by €100 per tonne, well in excess of the proportionate impact of lower ethylene prices on the PVC cost base.
PET prices fell by a further €80 per tonne last month because of weak demand and competitively-priced Chinese imports. There was also growing concern from processors over the lack of clarity and delayed settlement of the paraxylene reference price. There were signs that European PET prices were stabilizing early February because of more expensive import prices and higher demand.
Material availability remains on the low side as regional producers are reducing operating rates at their plants to avoid a supply overhang amid weak demand. Nevertheless, there was sufficient material to meet demand across all product sectors. Regional supply was supplemented by a steady inflow of imported material, particularly of PET, PVC and polyolefins.
A selection of the latest production developments is presented below;
- Four PP lines operated by Borealis in Belgium will undergo planned maintenance programs set for Feb. 2 to March 2.
- The LyondellBasell cracker in Berre, France, offline since a fire in August 2022, will not go back onstream until early 2023.
- According to market sources, Dubai-based Equipolymers reduced operating rates at its PET site in Schkopau, Germany with one of the two PET lines taken offline.
In January, polymer demand picked up a little across all polymer classes as processors started to restock after the holidays Demand was however far below what would normally be expected for the time of year. Sellers noted a slight improvement in sales during the first two weeks of February. The automotive, food packaging and pharmaceuticals sectors exceeded expectations while demand from the construction and industrial sectors remained sluggish.
Many buyers are playing a waiting game this month and working whenever possible from stock. While demand has picked up slightly this month, it remains below normal for the time of year. It is therefore possible that polyolefin price increases could moderate a little as the month progresses.