US polyolefins exports building on Asia demand

02 April 2009 22:54  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--US polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) exports have gotten a strong boost over the past two weeks from surging demand in Asia, especially China, traders and sellers said on Thursday.

“The market is changing on an hourly basis,” a producer said.

The source said PP demand in particular has benefited from the Chinese government’s policy to promote the proliferation of electrical appliances in rural areas, which has caused appliance manufacturers in the region to work overtime.

US PP export prices rose 2-4 cents/lb ($44-88/tonne or €33-67/tonne) over the past 10 days, according to traders.

Bagged homopolymer resin was at 37-38 cents/lb FOB (free on board) US Gulf, up from the lowest deals heard at 34 cents/lb FOB in previous weeks, sources said.

Further increases on PP exports appeared likely as sellers raised the price tag on remaining inventory.

New offers of homopolymer PP have emerged at 38-39 cents/lb FOB Houston warehouse in hopper cars.

“This is 100% due to Asia,” a trader said, adding that demand in other regions has been unimpressive.

PE exports were also trending up, with high density PE (HDPE) for blow moulding quoted at around 38 cents/lb FOB US Gulf in bags, up 2-3 cents from March levels.

Further increases were likely on PE as well, but there was no firm consensus as to how long the current Asia-driven price spike would hold.

“I think this Asia boom is a short-term phenomenon,” the trader said.

Another trader agreed with that assessment, saying the export boom could last as little as one week or as long as four weeks.

“I don’t think it will last two months,” he said.

The effect on domestic prices was not yet clear either, but sellers said it was unlikely they would lower contract prices when export business was so strong.

US buyers expected flat or slightly lower pricing on PE in April, but a trader said producers might eke out an increase if the market tightened sufficiently due to exports.

Major US polyolefins producers include Dow Chemical, ExxonMobil, Total, Formosa Plastics and LyondellBasell.

($1 = €0.76)

For more on PE and PP visit ICIS chemical intelligence
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By: David Barry
+1 713 525 2653

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