US March PE exports drop 8% from Feb on Asian slowdown

12 May 2010 19:46  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--US polyethylene (PE) export volumes fell by nearly 25,000 tonnes (7.7%) in March from the previous month because of a sudden curbing of shipments to China, the US International Trade Commission (ITC) said on Wednesday.

Partly offsetting the drop in China-bound shipments, March exports to Latin America markets were generally higher compared with February.

China imported 42,562 tonnes of high density PE (HDPE) from the US in February, but that figure dropped 79% to 8,826 tonnes in March.

Linear low density PE (LLDPE) and low density PE (LDPE) shipments from the US to China fell by 13,564 tonnes (58%) and 8,839 tonnes (61%), respectively.

At the beginning of March, polyolefins traders said the PE arbitrage window to Asia was firmly closed, after a series of planned and unplanned cracker outages in the US Gulf region sent feedstock ethylene spot prices soaring.

US HDPE exports to China have fallen since peaking at 81,142 tonnes in December, the second highest monthly total ever recorded.

Even with weaker volumes in March, first-quarter PE exports reached at 970,484 tonnes, far outpacing the year-earlier total of 738,084 tonnes.

LLDPE and HDPE volumes showed the strongest year-over-year gains in the first quarter, at 56% and 38%, respectively. LDPE export volumes increased by a relatively modest 4%.

Traders routinely described LDPE film as being the most difficult PE grade to source from the US Gulf, and it carries a premium to other grades.

($1 = €0.79)

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By: David Barry
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