PE markets were too quiet December for many producers to pass through the €32/tonne increase in feedstock costs. The majority of converters were well stocked and therefore faced no pressure to buy additional volume, especially as the holiday period was approaching. As a result, LDPE prices were largely rolled over from the previous month while LLDPE prices slipped between €5-10/tonne.
The January ethylene contract price remained unchanged from the previous month at €1,057/tonne. However, following their inability to raise prices in December, producers called for price increases ranging between €20-50/tonne.
To the disappointment of producers, L/LDPE markets were once again too subdued to support the planned price hikes. While demand recovered to normal January levels after the holiday lull, there was a plentiful supply of material available. Consequently, L/LDPE notations managed gains of only €5/tonne.
HDPE producers were mostly unable to pass through their targeted price increases to customers last December. They initially planned to raise prices by at least the €32/tonne rise in the ethylene December contract price.
For blow moulding grades, there was still a surplus of material and prices rolled over. Blown film grades registered small gains as previous surpluses started to disappear. The injection moulding segment was better balanced and producers managed a €20/tonne price increase.
In January, the ethylene contract price settled on a rollover basis. Despite stable raw material costs, HDPE producers planned to recoup the margin they had lost in the previous month by raising prices up to €50/tonne. However, for injection moulding and blow moulding grades notations remained largely unchanged from the previous month, while there were small gains for blown film grades.
Following a €32/tonne increase in the December propylene contract price PP producers targeted price increases at least matching the monomer rise. However, producers were not entirely successful in raising prices across the board.
Injection moulding material registered gains averaging €15/tonne as producers drew down stocks towards the end of the year. Copolymer material also saw double-digit gains. Injection material demand was better than expected as converters feared further price increases at the beginning of the New Year. Blown film material, on the other hand, was well supplied and prices rolled over.
In January, PP prices increased in line with the €20/tonne rise in the propylene reference price, despite producers' attempts to include a margin increase in their price negotiations. The PP market was bullish following a pick-up in purchasing after the end of the holiday period.
The €32/tonne increase for the December ethylene contract price meant a proportionate €16/tonne rise in the base PVC cost base. Sellers attempted to recover the cost increase but converters strongly resisted price hikes. There were sufficient quantities of material available and demand was at a seasonal low level. Overall, base PVC prices registered gains of less than €5/tonne.
For rigid PVC compounds, prices edged €5/tonne higher in December due to firmness in titanium dioxide costs. Flexible PVC compound prices softened as a result of lower plasticiser prices.
With ethylene costs stable in January PVC sellers struggled to boost prices and margins. PVC base material and compound prices remained largely unchanged compared with the previous month. There was a steady supply of material available. Meanwhile, seasonal demand was somewhat better than normal for the time of year.
Styrenics prices surged again in December following a couple of months of falling prices. Following the benzene-driven rise in styrene spot prices, the styrene monomer (SM) reference contract settled €95/tonne higher in December. General-purpose polystyrene (GPPS) and high impact material saw prices climb more or less in line with the rise in SM costs.
There was generally a sufficient volume of material available and demand was quite brisk for the time of year. Many converters were speculating on higher prices to come and were stocking up.
In January, the SM reference price, contrary to expectations, increased by just €10/tonne. Nevertheless, sellers raised their nominations between €15-35/tonne in a bid to raise margins. However, the pre-buying of GPPS in December dampened buying interest in January. Consequently sellers were able to raise GPPS prices by only €10/tonne.
December saw lower PET prices at the upper end of the price range and higher prices at the lower end. Lower volume buyers caught up with the price discounts of the previous month, while medium volume purchasers saw a modest price upswing.
The price upswing was prompted by higher feedstock costs and a lower volume of imported material. Nevertheless, there was sufficient material available from local suppliers and demand was somewhat better than expected for the time of year.
Following a slow start to the New Year, European PET prices began to tick higher as the month progressed. PET raw material costs moved ahead by around €10/tonne fuelled by higher oil prices as well as rising Chinese demand for virgin PET on a recently implemented ban on imports of 24 grades of solid plastic waste.