Standard thermoplastic moved higher because of rising feedstock costs during the first two weeks of February.
PE prices increased by €60-80/tonne, which was slightly less than the €85/tonne rise in the ethylene reference price. PP prices matched the €80/tonne rise of for the propylene reference price.
PVC prices increased €20-30/tonne at the start of February after nine months of price declines. PS prices edged slightly higher during the first half of February after the styrene monomer reference price increased by €10/tonne.
In January, standard thermoplastic classes, with the exception of polystyrene, saw a steep price reduction because of falling feedstock costs and weak demand.
Polystyrene prices bucked the downward price trend after steep cost increases for precursors benzene and styrene monomer of €145/tonne and €115/tonne, respectively. As a result, polystyrene prices gained €100/tonne.
L/LDPE prices fell by €70-80/tonne, which was less than the €95/tonne reduction in the cost of ethylene, largely because of energy cost pass-through. HDPE blow moulding and blown film prices fell €70/tonne whereas injection moulding prices fell only by €60/tonne, due largely to higher demand.
PP prices fell €70-80/tonne against a decline of €95/tonne for the propylene reference price. Producers cited higher energy costs as a reason for restricting price discounts to below the cost reduction.
PVC prices remained under pressure from lower costs, weak demand and imports at the start of the new year. Base PVC prices fell by €100/tonne, well in excess of the proportionate impact of lower ethylene prices on the PVC cost base.
PET prices fell by a further €80/tonne last month because of weak demand and competitively-priced Chinese imports. There was also growing concern from processors over the lack of clarity and delayed settlement of the paraxylene reference price. There were signs that European PET prices were stabilising early February because of more expensive import prices and higher demand.
Material availability remains on the low side as regional producers are reducing operating rates at their plants to avoid a supply overhang amid weak demand. Nevertheless, there was sufficient material to meet demand across all product sectors. Regional supply was supplemented by a steady inflow of imported material, particularly of PET, PVC and polyolefins.
A selection of the latest production developments is presented below;
- Four PP lines operated by Borealis in Belgium will undergo planned maintenance programmes from 2nd February and due to restart 2nd March
- The LyondellBasell cracker in Berre, France, offline since a fire in August 2022, will not go back onstream until early 2023
- According to market sources, Dubai-based Equipolymers reduced operating rates at its PET site in Schkopau, Germany with one of the two PET lines taken offline.
In January, polymer demand picked up a little across all polymer classes as processors started to restock after the holidays Demand was however far below what would normally be expected for the time of year. Sellers noted a slight improvement in sales during the first two weeks of February. The automotive, food packaging and pharmaceuticals sectors exceeded expectations while demand from the construction and industrial sectors remained sluggish.
Many buyers are playing a waiting game this month and working whenever possible from stock. While demand has picked up slightly this month, it remains below normal for the time of year. It is therefore possible that polyolefin price increases could moderate a little as the month progresses.