Thermoplastic prices in April were on the rise driven by crude oil prices.
In April, L/LDPE suppliers called for sizeable price increases to cover higher costs and to improve their margins. The April ethylene contract price settled €60/tonne higher as a result of rising crude oil and naphtha costs and supply tightness.
Most LDPE film contracts settled during the first two weeks of April were either in line with the cost increase or included a small margin component. LLDPE contract settlements, on the other hand, were in line with the cost increase.
There was no shortages of material with buyers able to secure the volumes they wanted. The LLDPE sector remained well supplied by imports. Several cracker and polymer plants are due for planned maintenance programmes.
Demand was in line with expectations, although some converters were reluctant to buy additional volumes in view of the sudden price hikes.
HDPE sellers were seeking significant price rises in April to compensate for a cost increase and to improve their profit margins. The monthly ethylene contract price settled €60/tonne higher due to an increase in oil and naphtha costs, as well as ethylene supply tightness.
Blown film grades struggled to achieve margin improvement with contracts settling in line with the cost rise during early trading. Blow moulding and injection moulding grades, on the other hand, registered small margin gains.
Blow moulding and injection moulding material was in slightly shorter supply than blown film grades. Nevertheless, buyers were able to secure the material they wanted. There are expected to be several cracker and polymer plants down for maintenance over the coming months.
Demand from the agricultural chemicals and paint sectors was livelier with the onset of spring.
Last month polypropylene producers seized the opportunity to call for higher prices following a rise in their cost base and tightening supply. The April propylene contract price settled €60/tonne higher compared with March due to rising oil and naphtha costs and material shortages.
Homopolymer film and injection and copolymer injection grades saw price rises at least €10/tonne higher than the rise in feedstock costs.
Material availability shortened through March and into April as a result of several cracker and polymer lines down for routine maintenance. Other lines are scheduled to be taken out of action over the coming months.
Demand improved after the Easter break and the arrival of spring, although some converters held back from seeking additional purchases after the sudden price hikes. However, with oil costs firming, further increases are on the cards.
Polystyrene suppliers tabled planned price hikes of between €105-120/tonne, effective 1 April, following a sharp increase in costs. The monthly styrene monomer reference price soared €95/tonne as a result of higher benzene and ethylene costs and tighter supply.
Early contract settlements not only covered the cost increase, but also included a small margin component. The premium for high-impact PS remained at €80/tonne following a €90/tonne rise in butadiene costs.
While there was generally sufficient availability of polystyrene to meet demand, styrene monomer tightened due to maintenance work at two large plants. Material availability could tighten over the coming months as further cracker and polymer plant maintenance turnarounds are planned during the second quarter. Furthermore, US imports into Europe are easing.
Demand picked up with the onset of spring as converters sought to replenish their inventories.
In April, PVC producers called for price increases of €60/tonne, which was above the price rise for the ethylene component of the polymer, to improve their margins. PVC consists of about 50% ethylene as well as 50% chlorine. Given the €60/tonne rise in ethylene, PVC sellers at least wanted to secure price hikes above the €30/tonne ethylene component.
PVC producers managed to achieve small margin improvement with prices increasing between €40-50/tonne during the first two weeks of April.
Material availability was tighter last month due to several routine plant maintenance turnarounds and a few short unscheduled plant stoppages. Furthermore, firming PVC prices in US and Turkey meant fewer imports from these sources.
PVC demand picked up after Easter and an improvement in the weather lifted order intake for pipes and profiles from the building industry.
In April, European bottle-grade PET prices continued their strong upward trend which began in March. The European paraxylene contract price, the key PET feedstock, increased by €60/tonne in April, while the monoethylene glycol contract price was up €84/tonne. The combined cost increases lifted the PET cost mix by almost €70/tonne.
PET sellers took advantage of good seasonal demand and tight material availability to push for price increases above the cost rise in order to make up for the losses they have incurred in recent months.
Production cutbacks have curtailed material availability and good demand means that producers' stocks are even lower. Planned maintenance turnarounds at several PET plants are also constraining supply. While imports have recently waned there is a concern that relatively higher European prices could encourage significantly more competitive PET imports from Asia.