Polymer Price Know-How: August 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, whilst demand for PS and other styrenic polymers remains subdued, polymer producers have already announced price increases for August. 

Overview: August 2023

Are polymer prices on the rebound?

With the exception of the Benzene Contract price, C2 (ethylene) and C3 (propylene) contract prices recorded a rollover and contract SM (styrene monomer) recorded an increase. These changes in fortune come after 4 consecutive months of losses for C2 and C3 and two months where SM pricing has faced significant reduction.

The C2 and C3 price rollover contrasts with an increase in average Brent Crude pricing of £21.27 per tonne comparing June with July and adds further inflationary pressure, both in terms of feedstock and energy costs.

The increase in spot SM and SM contract pricing comes as a result of SM capacity restrictions in Europe, whereby a joint venture PO (propylene oxide) /SM Covestro/Lynodell Basell plant has been idled due to lack of demand for PO (a precursor for polyurethane) and Trinseo has suffered an unplanned SM outage. Such is the perceived impact of these outages, that the spot price of SM is now at the contract price level.

Whilst demand for PS and other styrenic polymers remains subdued, polymer producers have already announced price increases for August.

Polyolefin producers appear to be taking a selective approach for August price increases and are pushing through increases in markets/applications where supply and demand are more favourably balanced, with the expectation that a more widespread set of price increases are about to be pushed through for September.


The graph above clearly depicts C3 spot pricing collapsing to the level of Naphtha and C2 spot pricing also heading towards this unsustainable level.

The situation for high-performance and engineering polymers is quite mixed, with more commoditised types such as POM and standard PC facing the greatest pressure as competitively priced imports from outside of Europe set the lower end of the price range. The price of specialised materials is more stable, with producers reluctantly passing through decreases either to fend off competition or to match falling input prices.

The second half of the calendar year looks set for a period of change, with the price of volume polymers expected to lead the way. In support of this expectation is clear evidence that the ‘mega bargains’ that were present at the beginning of the summer have long since disappeared.

Polyolefins

After many months of falls, we finally saw a rollover in monomers into August. This was broadly in line with expectations. Some producers have seen this as an opportunity to raise prices having lost margin over recent months but after push back, some have retreated to rollover or reduced their ambitions. Whilst some initially sought +€100 / MT, PE is more like +€20 / MT and PP seems to be broadly rollover.

Whilst any increase is seen as ambitious in the current market, we are seeing signs of change in sentiment, particularly in the USA with their domestic demand improving and prices for exports increasing as a result. We’re also now into Hurricane season and that raises the spectre of interruptions to supply in the coming months. Europe is dependent on imports for HDPE and LLDPE and these grades are starting to show signs of tightness. As a result, there is more confidence in achieving prices increases this month and pushing for bigger increases in September.

PP is slightly less clear and whilst there is an expectation of increases in September based on improved demand post European holidays, it’s unlikely to be as significant as PE with a slightly more balanced Supply and Demand situation.

Some concerns for September are glitches in the Supply Chain. Having enjoyed many months of easy supply and sort lead times, the supply pipeline is looking a bit more fragile. Traders are running lower stocks as they wrestle with increased financing costs and low returns and producers have been reducing output and clearing stocks over the summer to be ready for this Autumn push for increases. Now might be the time to look at taking some extra safety stock.

Styrenics

Engineering  Polymers

Price Know-How: August 2023 Full Report

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

Subscribe and keep in the know.

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!

To subscribe for free and receive monthly updates directly to your inbox please click here

Plastribution logo
Plastribution
+44 (0) 1530 560560

Subscribe to our newsletter