FocusPoor Europe economy leads to concerns in PP market

02 October 2012 10:36  [Source: ICIS news]

By Linda Naylor

Poor Europe economy impacts PP marketLONDON (ICIS)--Weak demand in Europe is affecting expectations for October polypropylene (PP) volumes and pricing, several sources said on Tuesday.

France’s car registrations fell by 18.3% year on year in September, according to figures released on 1 October by the Comite des Constructeurs Francais d’Automobiles (CCFA), while Spain’s plunged by  37% in September, with the year running down by 11%, according to ANFAC (Asociacion Espanola de Fabricantes de Automoviles y Camiones). Italy has also posted very poor results.

Several PP buyers mentioned these figures, publicised on Monday, as an indication of the weakness of some European economies, and not only because they are affecting the PP market directly, as PP is used widely in car manufacture.

October has been slow to start for PP business. The monthly propylene monomer price fell by €20/tonne ($26/tonne) to settle at €1,140/tonne FD (free delivered) NWE (northwest Europe), and while some producers are still targeting a rollover for October PP pricing, buyers are confident of a price decrease of a minimum of €20/tonne. Some say they already have indications from western European producer sources of a drop of €30-50/tonne.

“Our aim is to maintain margin in October,” said one major producer.

August and September PP prices rose by a total of close to €300/tonne, following a fall of more than €300/tonne in the previous three months, leading to complaints from converters that such extreme volatility was impossible to manage.

Volatility has been caused by similar price moves in upstream feedstock naphtha, which currently remains high. On Tuesday, naphtha was trading high at $975-977/tonne CIF (cost, insurance and freight) NWE. During the week ending on 22 June it had fallen to a low of $683/tonne CIF NWE.

Both producers and converters have found this level of volatility hard to manage and both complain of an unsustainable situation with such big price swings and high upstream costs. The situation is exacerbated by weak European economies.

“Demand is still not there,” said a converter. “Our order books are down to two weeks when they should be at five to six weeks.”

Some sectors are faring better than others.

“Our demand is holding up well,” said a converter in the food packaging industry.

The month of October seems to be starting slowly, and demand is expected to play a major role in how pricing evolves this month.

“Nobody is calling me at the moment,” said a reseller. “Let’s see how demand pans out in the coming days as that will set the scene for prices.”

Homopolymer injection PP prices are currently around the €1,330-1,350/tonne FD NWE level on a net basis for European product at medium-sized accounts.

While many sources expect lower prices in October, a collapse in pricing is not envisaged by most. Naphtha prices remain high and many large buyers need to recover the increases of August and September, so are not keen to push sellers too low. The level of stock at both the producer and converter level is also not long, as both sides are keen to control working capital in the form of stored product.

A clearer picture for October PP pricing should emerge by next week, as the level of demand in Europe will be more apparent.

($1 = €0.78)

By: Linda Naylor
+44 20 8652 3214

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