The upward swing of commodity resin pricing continued in February, with higher prices reported for three materials.
North American polypropylene resins prices saw the biggest hike, jumping an average of 8 cents per pound. That increase reflected a 7-cent increase in prices for polymer-grade propylene (PGP) feedstock, with PP makers gaining 1 cent in margin improvement as well. PP prices had jumped up 11 cents in January, matching a similar move in PGP.
"Clearly the PGP market remains tight," officials with New York-based PP supplier Blue Clover LLC said in a market update. "There is a continued supply constraint issue with delayed downtime experienced by PDH production." Supplies of PGP in the region have been tightened by planned turnarounds at plants operated by Enterprise Products and Invista in Texas.
"It's a very unusual time [for a PP price increase] because there's a lot of inventory and demand hasn't been good," said Paul Pavlov, a market analyst with Resin Technology Inc. in Fort Worth, Texas. He added that spot prices for PGP "have been more volatile than expected, and that's affected polypropylene pricing."
The January and February PP price hikes are the first seen for the material after seven consecutive monthly price drops. PP prices were down 4 cents in December and down a net of 42 cents for full-year 2022.
PVC prices moved up an average of 1 cent per pound for the second consecutive month in February. Availability of PVC remained somewhat tight again, as construction industry buyers began to make purchases ahead of spring construction.
The January hike ended a streak of six consecutive monthly price drops for PVC, including a 6-cent decline in December. Regional PVC prices finished 2022 down a net of 31 cents. Residential construction in the U.S. has slowed as interest rates have increased.
U.S. housing starts for January came in at an annualized rate of just under 1.34 million. That number essentially was flat vs. December but down more than 27 percent vs. the same month in 2022.
Prices for both solid and expanded polystyrene were up 3 cents in February after being flat in January. The February price hike was linked to price fluctuations for benzene feedstock, which is used to make styrene monomer.
Market prices for benzene were up 47 cents in February to $3.58 per gallon, an increase of just over 15 percent. Prices for the material had been up 4 cents in January, but that amount wasn't enough to lift regional PS prices.