After some delay, North American polyethylene prices increased by 5 cents per pound in July.
The increase was delayed by negotiations between suppliers and buyers and by differences reported by widely followed price indexes. Most buyers contacted by Plastics News indicated that the 5-cent jump had taken hold by late July or early August.
Regional PE demand has remained very strong, with some grades of high density PE for injection molding in especially short supply, according to market sources. PE supplies also were tightened when LyondellBasell Industries lost several days of production in La Porte, Texas, after a July 27 acetic acid leak killed two workers and injured 30.
But supplies of other grades of PE were improving, and sources said a number of buyers were "burned out and frustrated" after absorbing multiple rounds of price hikes in the last 18 months.
Mike Burns, a market analyst with Resin Technology Inc. in Fort Worth, Texas, said North American PE supply has seen "slight improvements" and that production rates are expected to increase. But he added that supplies of the material in the first half of 2021 were down 1 billion pounds vs. the second half of 2020, even as domestic demand and exports remained the same.
"Resin availability is going to improve, it's just a matter of when," Burns said. He added that the 5-cent increase nominated by some PE makers for August "will be heavily discusses by processors."
Regional prices for all grades of PE were up 5 cents in June. Most regional PE prices are up 43 cents so far in 2021 and 63 cents since January 2020. HDPE prices are up 2 cents less than low and linear low density PE. The July price hike was the eighth consecutive for the PE market.