FocusUS PP buyers expect May drop to erase April rise, and more

22 April 2010 23:08  [Source: ICIS news]

PP expected to drop in MayBy David Barry and William Lemos

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--US polypropylene (PP) prices were headed for a significant drop in May, pressured by weaker feedstock propylene values, resin buyers said on Thursday.

Expectations among PP converters ranged from a 7-10 cent/lb ($154-220/tonne, or €116-165/tonne) drop in May, compared with a 7 cent/lb average April increase.

A buyer said the downtrend would likely continue in June.

“It’s just overvalued, no doubt about it,” the source said, citing an estimated 25-30 cent/lb gap between US and Asia resin prices.

PP processors with the flexibility to delay orders are doing so in anticipation of the coming price drop.

“People are playing their volumes, and all of the sudden there’s not as much demand. I’ve heard that from several places.” another buyer said.

US propylene supply has increased since March, according to market participants.

Talk emerged this week that a US propylene cargo was fixed for Europe in early May, pointing to looser market conditions.

Based on propylene prices in Europe at €1,040-1060/tonne, the 5,000-6,000-tonne US parcel would have to be priced under 60 cents/lb FOB (free on board).

Freight was estimated at $130/tonne.

A second propylene cargo for 5,000 tonnes was heard to be in process for early May loading.

Exports of propylene from the US Gulf point to a sharp reversal from the last six months, when tight US monomer supply was blamed for driving price contract prices up by 53%.

The market was still said to be tight in early April as contracts rose by 7 cents/lb, even thought spot began to show some signs of weakness.

“Things change fast,” one market participant said, predicting a significant contract drop in May.

“Yes, a big drop but who knows what that will be,” another source said.

A US buyer said spot supply in the US was readily available. “You can find spot anywhere now,” the source said, predicting contracts would drop by at least 10 cents/lb in May.

US PP contract prices have closely tracked the movement of the polymer-grade propylene (PGP) benchmark.

ICIS pricing assessed domestic deliveries of prime injection-grade homopolymer were at 87.5-90.5 cents/lb in April.

Major US PP producers include Sunoco, LyondellBasell, ExxonMobil, INEOS, Total, Formosa, Phillips Sumika, Pinnacle Polymers, ConocoPhillips, Flint Hills Resources and Dow Chemical.

($1 = €0.75)

For more on polypropylene visit ICIS chemical intelligence
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