In July polymer markets were well supplied with material from European production lines and imported material.
The downward L/LDPE price trend gathered momentum in July and August despite very limited cost movement. The ethylene contract prices settled €10/tonne higher in July and down €20/tonne in August. Producers initially attempted to stabilise prices, but given the lengthening supply situation, they had no choice but to implement substantial price reductions.
LDPE prices slipped €75/tonne over July and August with LLDPE down €100/tonne. Margins remain at historically high levels, but have dipped sharply over the past two months.
Availability of all grades is plentiful. There are currently few interruptions to European production sites and an abundant supply of imported material.
Converters ordered at a brisk pace to build up their stock levels following the sharp price reductions in July. However, some producers closed their order books early in August to deter any further pre-buying.
In July, HDPE producers were forced to offer substantial price discounts due to growing over-supply, despite a €10/tonne rise in the ethylene contract price. Blown film prices fell on average by €50/tonne with blow moulding and injection moulding prices down €25-30/tonne.
HDPE prices continued to fall in August, but at a slower pace. Blown film prices were down in line with the €20/tonne fall in ethylene costs, while blow moulding and injection moulding prices fell €10/tonne.
Blown film grade supply was readily available throughout the last two months both from local suppliers and from imports, but blow moulding and injection moulding availability became more limited in August.
The sharp price decline encouraged converters to top up their inventories in July. Demand slackened in August, but nevertheless remained respectable for the start of the holiday season.
PP producers had to concede price rebates in July despite a €17.5/tonne increase in the propylene contract price. There was simply too much material available and demand remained lacklustre. Homopolymer injection prices fell €30/tonne with copolymer injection down €20/tonne and homopolymer film down €10/tonne.
PP prices stabilised last month following a rollover in the propylene contract price.
Material availability lengthened in July with more than sufficient European production being supplemented by a growing supply of imported Asian material. Homopolymer film was least affected by the cheaper imports. However, supply started to move closer to balance last month as local producers put a brake on production.
Demand was on the low side in July as converters adopted a cautious approach as prices were expected to fall. Sales picked up from early August once prices had stabilised.
For July, PS producers initially targeted limiting the fall in general-purpose PS (GPPS) prices to less than the €125/tonne reduction in the styrene monomer reference price to broaden their profit margins, claiming that buyers did not absorb the full increase in the monomer in June. Indeed, major producers posted just a €80-85/tonne decline in their GPPS prices for July, significantly below the styrene monomer decrease.
PS producers were however unable to meet their price goals due to ample supply. Turnarounds at several styrene plants in Europe came to an end in June and there were additional imports from the US. Overall, European GPPS prices fell in line with the €125/tonne drop in styrene costs.
GPPS prices stabilised last month following a rollover in the cost of styrene. Material availability was heading back to normal levels.
For July, suppliers of PVC base resin fought hard to pass on the proportionate €5/tonne increase in ethylene costs, plus a small mark-up for profit improvement. In most cases however, market conditions permitted nothing more than a price rollover. PVC compound prices edged €10-20/tonne higher due to a rise in additive costs.
Following a €20/tonne reduction in the August ethylene contract price, PVC producers hoped to make up for the margin losses of the previous month in
August by calling for a rollover. Producers did however seem to be losing the battle as base resin prices slipped €5-10/tonne by mid-month.
There were no notable supply restrictions during the last two months with most PVC plants running at normal rates. Demand was normal in July but slackened last month with the start of the holiday season.
European bottle-grade PET prices slipped again in July despite a rollover in the cost of paraxylene. Prices were down on average by around €10-15/tonne. This masks a wide variation in price settlements with larger buyers managing to secure larger price concessions than smaller volume buyers.
PET prices slipped again last month by a further €10-15/tonne. The European paraxylene contract price had not settled by mid-month, but was expected to fall €20-30/tonne as a result of muted downstream demand.
There was a plentiful supply of material even though local producers are carefully controlling production rates. There has also been a steady inflow of cheaper imported material from Asia in recent months.
PET demand was at the lower end of market expectations during the summer, especially in Southern Europe, and slipped further during the August holiday season.