Polycarbonate prices continued to drift lower in March and April despite significant planned price increases remaining on the table. Producers were seemingly more concerned about preserving market share rather than improving margins. Standard grade PC prices were down by around E50/tonne before stabilising in May, while specialty grades have been more or less stable over the last three months.
There has been a plentiful supply of PC resin in Europe with local producers working their plants at close to capacity rates and imported material from Asia being attracted into Europe by a strong euro against the US dollar. PC demand from the automotive and industrial sectors is good while demand from the optical data storage market has weakened.
PC producer margins are coming under growing pressure as the cost of key feedstocks, benzene and phenol, and energy prices, continue to rise. In response, producers announced planned price increases of E150/tonne from June.
Since March, calls by ABS producers for price increases of E120/tonne largely fell on deaf ears. There was plenty of competitively priced standard grade material available from both local suppliers and from importers. There were, however, small price gains for specialty extrusion grades, which were not affected by Asian imports.
While imported commodity material put pressure on European ABS prices, demand has been good over the last three months. There was particularly strong growth from the domestic appliance and sports equipment sectors.
The European ABS sector may be on an upswing. In June, ABS producers announced planned price hikes of E150/tonne in response to further large increases in styrene and benzene costs. Furthermore, availability may start to tighten in Europe as Asian ABS prices are higher.