Polymer Price Know-How: February 2023

The leading polymer distributor, Plastribution, has released the latest instalment of Price Know-How. Price Know-How helps plastic raw material buyers make informed purchasing decisions. This month, while the most bullish suppliers are trying to push through the full monomer price increase into polymer pricing, most are adopting a more moderate approach by only passing the increase through in part.

Overview: February 2023

How is feedstock cost inflation going to impact polymer pricing?

The recent imposition of EU tariffs on Russian-origin refinery products, coupled with maintenance programs affecting European naphtha crackers, is causing cost inflation for all polymer feedstocks. As a result, supply restrictions are causing monomer producers to respond by increasing margins, as the supply-demand balance is in their favour.

While it is acknowledged that most polymerization plants in Europe are being run at very low operating rates, most producers will be concerned about the risk of falling below technical operating minimums. Plant reliability will become a major concern, and monomer suppliers are assured of a reasonable level of base load demand.

The issue then becomes one of supply and demand for polymers. Standard polymer suppliers face the twin challenges of low demand, coupled with increased penetration of competitively priced imports. While the most bullish suppliers are trying to push through the full monomer price increase into polymer pricing, most are adopting a more moderate approach by only passing the increase through in part. Many polymer converters are resisting the more moderate price increases and looking to either find suppliers who are happy to make some sales or are using existing material in their own supply chains to meet what is acknowledged to be sluggish demand from downstream.

The situation for engineering polymers remains difficult for suppliers, as downstream demand remains weak and supply is plentiful. On this basis, the pressure to reduce prices continues.

Subject to the monomer market remaining firm, polymer producers are likely to push forward on pricing for March as they make further efforts to recover profitability.

Polyolefins

February has seen a price rebound after the falls in January, with increases in both C2 and C3 monomers behind the push. While Ethylene C2 and Propylene C3 increased by €85 and €80/MT respectively, producers have been unable to pass the full increase through.

After some initial attempts at achieving the monomer, most suppliers fell back to increases of €50-70/MT as the market is well supplied, and buyers have a lot of choice. Trading activity on material shipped 6-8 weeks ago was seen in the market. This led some to believe that rollover was possible, but those hopes were quickly dashed.

The outlook for March is unclear, with a confusing picture over costs for producers and also for the supply/demand balance. Naphtha is still showing strength, even with weaker oil prices, possibly due to sanctions on Russian purchases. Therefore, the cost picture is unlikely to change much.

When it comes to demand, all eyes are on China and the initial reports suggest that the economy is not picking up as well as hoped following the Lunar New Year break. With over-supply likely, prices will be under pressure and with a small uptick in European pricing, we are more likely to see imports arriving in Europe in the coming months.

Styrenics

Engineering Polymers

Price Know-How: February 2023 Full Report

Visit the Price Know-How website to read the February 2023 update, including an in-depth analysis of each market segment and material group by Plastribution’s expert product managers.

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Price Know-How is an industry-leading report to keep you updated on polymer pricing and market fluctuations. A trusted, go-to resource for over a decade, Price Know-how is produced by the thermoplastics experts at the leading polymer distributor, Plastribution, with data from Plastics Information Europe.

Unlike many pricing reports, Price Know-How is tailored specifically for the UK polymer industry. We do all the currency conversions, so you don’t need to!

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