09 August 2013 09:25 [Source: ICB]
US July contract negotiations for polyethylene (PE) ended in a rollover, after producers agreed to postpone proposed increases until August, sources said on 1 August.
Producers had been seeking a 2 cent/lb ($44/tonne, €33/tonne) increase for high density polyethylene (HDPE) grades and a 4 cent/lb increase for low density polyethylene (LDPE) and linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE).
As late as 31 July, some producers were still pushing for the 2 cent/lb increase for HDPE grades, based on some ongoing tightness in the HDPE injection and HDPE high molecular weight film sectors.
However, by the end of the last day of the month, after several large HDPE suppliers agreed to settle flat, the rest of the market followed suit, sources said.
"We started receiving competitives for flat, and we started meeting them," said one producer, who said it still sees some tightness for certain grades.
Another producer said the flat settlement was based on slightly reduced demand in July and fairly equivalent international pricing. "This gives customers some room to breathe," said the producer.
The flat settlement for July means that the slight 2 cent/lb margin bump HDPE producers implemented in June when other PE grades settled flat will stick around for at least another month.
Some sources said they believe HDPE grades were undervalued and needed to see a price boost. Others have said they believe the grades will get back into balance by the end of the year.
With the flat settlement, producers will now push for the same 2 cent/lb increase for HDPE grades and a 4 cent/lb increase for LLDPE and LDPE in August. However, buyers said they believe the time is ripe for a price decrease.
"There are no hurricanes out there, the turnarounds are done, inventory built last month. I think there is an opportunity for a decrease," said one buyer.
Following the July settlement, prices for LLDPE butene film were at 74-76 cents/lb DEL (delivered), LDPE film prices were at 83-85 cents/lb DEL and HDPE blow moulding prices were at 74-76 cents/lb DEL, for small volume buyers, as assessed by ICIS.
Major US PE producers include Chevron Phillips Chemical, LyondellBasell, Dow Chemical, ExxonMobil, Westlake and INEOS.
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