In February, European standard thermoplastic prices continued on a firm upward trend due to higher feedstock costs and nervousness ahead of the cracker maintenance season beginning this month. Polyethylene producers managed to achieve most of their targeted margin improvement, while the margin gains were slightly less for polypropylene and PVC. PET and polystyrene prices matched the rise in feedstock costs.
Polystyrene once again saw massive price hikes in February, following gains of €90/tonne in January. The styrene monomer (SM) reference price settled €260/tonne higher last month, meaning that SM costs have risen €575/tonne since last November, an increase of almost 60%.
Global SM supply is very low due mostly to maintenance outages at plants in Asia and North America. Furthermore, European supply has been squeezed by higher exports to Asia over recent months. PS producers were able to pass on the cost increase in full, leaving PS prices at an all-time high.
Following a €460/tonne rise in butadiene costs the €90/tonne premium for high-impact polystyrene will likely come under scrutiny.
Polyethylene producers achieved margin improvement with prices increasing ahead of the €35/tonne rise in ethylene costs. LLDPE prices registered gains of €60/tonne, HDPE grades were €55/tonne higher and LDPE prices increased €50/tonne.
Polypropylene homopolymer prices increased €50/tonne with the tighter copolymer grades registering gains of €55/tonne compared with a €45/tonne rise in the propylene contract price.
PVC compound prices increased €25-30/tonne, which was slightly higher than the proportionate €17.5/tonne impact of higher ethylene costs on the PVC cost base.
PET prices gained €70/tonne, which was in line with the increase in the cost mix. Continuing scarcity of cheaper imported Asian material supported the upward price trend.