In North American resin markets, July brought higher prices for polypropylene and PET bottle resin, but lower prices for polystyrene.
PP prices ticked up 2 cents per pound in July, following a similar increase in prices for polymer-grade propylene (PGP). The increase is far less than June's 12-cent hike and the 13-cent increase in May. Factoring in previous increases and decreases, PP prices are up a net of 68.5 cents since December.
Regional PP makers had attempted to add 5 cents of margin improvement to the 2 cents in monomer movement, but were unsuccessful. Market sources said producers now will try to win that 5 cents in August.
Sources added that North American PP demand remains strong from many end markets, and supply has improved somewhat. Suppliers are continuing to recover from the ice storm that hit Texas in February and knocked out almost 90 percent of North American PP production for several days.
U.S. PP operating rates in June were estimated at around 96 percent, the highest for the industry in 14 years, sources said.
Lower-priced imported PP is becoming available in North America, according to Blue Clover LLC Polymer Solutions, a PP distributor. But deliveries of that material have longer lead times that processors might not be able to accommodate.
In PET, prices were up an average of 2 cents per pound in July after being flat for the previous two months. Prices are now up 14 cents so far in 2021. Market sources said PET prices in July were affected by higher prices for purified terephthalic acid (PTA) and monoethylene glycol (MEG) feedstocks.
PET prices in August could be affected by a fatal July 27 accident at an acetic acid plant operated by LyondellBasell Industries in LaPorte, Texas. Two workers were killed in the accident, which involved a leak of acetic acid. That material is used in PTA production.
In the PS market, prices tumbled 10 cents in July after sliding 8 cents in June. PS prices again followed benzene feedstock, which is used to make styrene monomer. Even with those declines, PS prices in North America are up a net of 22 cents so far in 2021.
Benzene prices in July were down 99 cents to $3.09 a gallon, a slide of more than 24 percent vs. June. Market sources said the reopening of restaurants may be having a negative impact on demand for takeout containers, cutlery and other PS products. Food packaging and food service products account for more than half of North American PS sales.