The latest polymer price reports and charts have been released by Plastics Information Europe (PIE).
Standard Thermoplastics February 2017
PE: In February, European PE producers were unable to win the big increases they had hoped for, but at the end of the day, were able to bring about a turnaround to lift their margins. In fact, almost all the price increases were above the rise in the ethylene reference. Demand was generally quite lively. The C2 reference for March has gone up again. At the same time, the maintenance turnarounds are about to start, and the raw materials are likely to become less plentiful. This means that obtaining any quantities above forecast will be difficult. All the signs are pointing to an increase in producers’ margins, with the size of the increase depending on the type of material in question
PP: European PP producers were able to pass through the rise in the C3 reference contract for all products in their portfolio without much problem. Scarcely a buyer was able to get by without paying more. For the copolymer grades, availability tightened noticeably. To keep ahead of demand as well as price rises March surely holds in store, converters stepped up buying activity. The March propylene reference contract was fixed EUR 50/t higher against February. As the market is clearly tightening, their efforts are very likely to be crowned with success.
PVC: In February, PVC producers managed the long hoped-for trend reversal. Margin improvements remained fairly moderate, yet, for the first time since midway through last year, the price increases achieved were proportionally higher than the nominal share in the ethylene referencet. The situation for compounds, by contrast, remained surprisingly quiet. For March, calls for up to +EUR 100/t have already been voiced for the base material. The maintenance season will soon be upon us and demand is still brisk – so when, if not now, would be the ideal time to claw in bigger margin improvements?
Styrenics: The SM’s sharp cost increase has catapulted styrenics prices up into the sky. Following the significant increase of the SM reference contract, prices for PS and ABS both rose to all-time highs. EPS notations are also just short of climbing to new record heights. Just as in the previous months, producers generally did not manage to pass on the entire cost increase to processors. The mad race of styrene notations goes on. The SM reference saw another increase by EUR 90/t in March and butadiene even went up by EUR 350/t. This means that three-digit premiums on ABS are almost a given and PS and EPS prices are also set to reach new record heights.
PET: In February 2017, European PET producers were not always able to fully recoup the cost increase in the basic components of PX (up EUR 55/t) and MEG (up EUR 120/t). Even though prices rose EUR 70/t on average, Europe’s producers still had to stomach a slight erosion of their margins. They should even be grateful for this, however, since the usual low level of demand prevailing during the off-season would scarcely have permitted extensive hikes had supplies been running at their normal level. The fact that they were able to raise prices at all was once again due to the marked weakening of imports. Notations in the polyester chains have risen strongly worldwide and especially in Asia, making Europe appear considerably less attractive than before.
And this has currently relieved the pressure on regrinders. Firstly, because the price of virgin material has risen considerably of late, giving secondary suppliers some upwards breathing space. And, secondly, because the pressure of competition from import grades that are not particularly specialised has eased off.
Further price hikes can doubtlessly be expected in March, since feedstocks are trending upwards once again, although the price rises are certainly not at the same pronounced level as earlier on. If imports remain as weak as they have been to date, producers should be able to push through at least moderate improvements to their margins as the season gains momentum. And regrind prices should move up further on the back of this too.
Engineering Thermoplastics February 2017
Cost explosion sends shock waves through the market / Polyamides make a triple-digit leap / Step-by-step implementation of quarterly increases / Rally to continue
As expected, the shock waves emanating from the global price explosion in key feedstock chains in February quickly swept through the European engineering thermoplastics market. Particularly hard hit was the commodity-related ABS, which suffered from both the styrene blast and the butadiene blast.
With the classic engineering polymers, it was the polyamides that took the brunt of the blast, and their producers also had to cope with considerable price rises from upstream. This has already been reflected in triple-digit rises in the monthly trading business. All the other products covered by this report have also risen, sometimes to catch up on past quarterly increases and sometimes to pre-empt future ones.
The upward rally is not yet over. The polyamides in particular are still rocketing with a velocity seldom seen in the past. ABS will also continue its inexorable climb, although perhaps a little slower than before. With all other types, producers will carry on with their usual piecemeal approach, pushing through the triple-digit quarterly increases in stages in the freely negotiated monthly distribution and trading transactions. Overall, rising prices will continue to gust through the markets, particularly as demand is presently showing few signs of weakness.
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