03.03.2017, nur in Englisch verfügbar
Facing a weird April
The following factors influenced “commodity” polymer prices and price expectations last week:
- the demand generated by plastic converters came to a halt in some segments, they are waiting for cheaper prices,
- April is traditionally the high season,
- because of the Easter Holidays April will be short,
- BRENT oil price close to 50 USD and then increasing again,
- import appeared (Middle-East)
- dropping Asian monomer and polymer prices,
- EUR getting stronger
- strengthening Ruble,
- maintenance season in WE, short monomer supply, short supply of monomer in particular
- C2 and C3 price change lagging behind the expectations, ethylene roll-over, slight propylene price increase (+15),
- On the day when the report was written styrene monomer prices were not yet known
Ethylene roll-over surprised the market, because of the short supply a slight increase seemed to be probable. Propylene price increase is also lower than expected. All this means the partial slump of the increasing price tendency in April, PPH and HDPE prices show a condition rather close to roll-over.
Spot styrene prices are by 400 € below the March contract prices, market players expect an SM contract price drop by 150-200 EUR in April, which will mean a price drop in case of polystyrene grades, too.
The slight increase and roll-over in case of polyolefin grades and the probable price reduction in case of polystyrene grades do not mean a broad supply, for most products rather a short supply is typical.
Decreasing Asian prices do not mean yet an automatically increasing supply in Europe, high import quantities can be expected as of the second half of May on the market. In addition, due to the very high domestic demand in Russia and due to the Ruble getting stronger it is not probable that high quantities of Russian import would appear on the market, neither in case of polyolefin nor in case of polystyrene grades.
April is because of the Easter Holidays anyway by at least one week shorter than March, therefore lower demand shall be anticipated. In addition April is also the high season of plastic conversion.
All these facts mean that April will be a weird month split into two parts, during the first week waiting strategy can be typical, but between April 6 and 12 practically 80% of the polymer sales will happen and after Easter we will be facing a period of time with low demand. This week converters have to be good at their price expectations, as it can happen easily that they do not get the feedstock desired in the quantities desired. But waiting could also be a good strategy as the low demand of the second half of the month can reduce the prices. We are facing a weird April, demand and supply will also be lower and the direction of prices is not clear yet.
The market is still short of LDPE, PPC and PPR. In case of these products the selective increase of the spread by 10-20 EUR to a different extent in case of each buyer can be expected. The short supply is further limited by the fact that MOL Petrochemical prepares for a short shutdown in May and now they build up reserve inventories for that time. The new LDPE plant of Slovnaft produces only 0.3 grade for the time being.
In case of PPH supply exceeds the demand and in the southern region also import from the Middle-East, Iran and Saudi-Arabia is present. In this way southern producers are forced to adapt their prices to them, which are by 50 EUR lower than CEE average prices. Because of the short WE supply it is possible that some producers will increase PPH prices significantly, even by more than 30 EUR.
In case of PPC and PPR an average price increase by 35-50 € is expected, but in case of the individual buyers deviations from this value are possible.
In case of HDPE demand is typically low coupled with normal supply. Because of this in case of HDPE roll-over, maybe a slight price decrease (-10-20 €) is possible. This does not apply to the pipe market, where theoretically there is a high season now, but both converters and polymer producers are still waiting for specific purchase orders.
The prices of the last two weeks and the preliminary expectations for April are presented in the table below:
||Polymer price ranges in March, 2017, Central Europe (€/ton)||Expected polymer price ranges in April, 2017, Central Europe (€/ton)|
|HDPE blow molding
|HDPE injection molding
|HDPE pipe (100)
|LDPE general purpose
|PP co-polymer injection molding
|PP homo-polymer fiber
|PP homo-polymer injection molding
Polystyrene prices still have a conjectural character. According to the market players a styrene monomer price drop by 150-200 € is probable. But this will be visible in different ways in case of the individual polystyrene grades. For the producers and converters price reduction in the high season is absolutely unfavorable, particularly after they continuously had to fight over the last 4 months with their buyers to increase prices. Therefore it is also the interest of converters not to allow a too big price drop to happen.
In case of GPPS supply is abundant the price drop will be close to the monomer price change. Prices can drop by 120-180 € as in this case import can be substituted and the price competition is also high. Though there is still a low quantity of imported goods on the CE markets for the time being, but the situation is going to change after Easter.
In case of EPS, in the field of insulation materials in particular, there is high season. Supply is short, demand is high. The possibility of import substitution is limited. Because of this EPS producers transfer up to 50% of the SM monomer price decrease to EPS, and converters, partially because they are cautious, partially in order to compensate for their losses suffered so far, they transfer even less to their buyers.
In case of HIPS the supply of extrusion and IM grades is very short. Price reduction will be moderate also here, up to 50% of the SM price cut.
The polystyrene market is facing an intensive price roller-coaster. Price drop in the middle of the season is not only unusual, but dangerous as well, as just at this time reserves have to be built for weaker months.
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