Polypropylene and PET bottle resin were the only North American commodities to see price changes in March, but market watchers are saying that lower prices for most materials could be on the way as a result of the COVID-19 breakout.
PP and PET prices in the region each fell by an average of 4 cents per pound in March, with declines for both materials tied to lower feedstock costs, according to market sources. PP prices in the region now have declined for four consecutive months. Those four decreases have lowered prices by a total of 8.5 cents.
The COVID-19 outbreak could lead to higher PP demand for medical uses as more cases are treated. PP fibers are a key component in N95 face masks, which are needed to protect health care providers. Production of N95 masks is rapidly increasing worldwide to address shortages.
PP sales into food applications also could increase in both takeout orders from restaurants and from store items, as consumers load up on more groceries to avoid frequent trips that could place them at risk. The automotive, construction and appliance markets, however, are on track to use less PP, as economic uncertainty prompts consumers to delay major purchases.
The 4-cent March PET price drop came after prices ticked down one cent in February. Regional PET prices now have fallen in four of the last five months, bringing prices down a total of 7 cents. Although PET demand increases in warmer months with higher beverage consumption, the domestic PET market remains oversupplied.
PET demand in one way could benefit from the outbreak, as consumers load up on bottled water, a major PET application. But if lockdowns last into warmer months and stop crowds from gathering, PET sales into carbonated soft drinks and bottled water could be negatively affected. In the medical market, glycol-modified PET has seen demand rise from increased use in medical face shields that are needed by health care workers dealing with COVID-19.