OUTLOOK ’17: US polycarbonate growth tied to economy

John Dietrich

23-Dec-2016

By John Dietrich

HOUSTON (ICIS)–US polycarbonate (PC) demand is expected to be strongly tied to US economic performance in 2017, with supply remaining long to balanced on imported product.

While several other phenol derivatives could rebound on increased crude oil production, oilfield uses are not a major end use for PC.

Most demand in 2016 and 2017 will come from the construction, pipe and automotive industries, sources said.

While construction and pipe offer little upside beyond GDP growth, US PC sources said automotive could offer increased strength.

US and global PC producers continue to seek approval for PC to be used as the windshield in automobiles, which would represent major demand growth given PC’s cost and weight advantage over glass.

Most market players, however, are not expecting any changes in regulations or testing that would allow PC to gain usage in that part of the automobile.

The other major driver for PC in 2017 is expected to be ample availability of product, with steady domestic production and imports from Asia.

Sources said that US producers struggled to push through price increase nomination in the third quarter when feedstock costs climbed around 10 cents/lb ($220/tonne).

This was because Asian product was offered around 10 cents/lb below what US producers were offering, boosting demand for overseas sellers.

With PC plants in Asia expected to run at high rates and low margins in an effort to grab market share, the ceiling on US PC pricing is expected to stay firm, particularly for freely negotiated contracts.

For formula-based product, adders over feedstock are expected to roll or decline slightly, given ample supply and expectations that demand growth will be somewhat limited.

For OUTLOOK

Major US producers of PC include Covestro and SABIC Innovative Plastics.

The automotive industry is a major global consumer of petrochemicals which contributes more than a third of the raw material costs of an average vehicle. ICIS tracks the movement of petrochemical raw material costs in auto production both globally and regionally with the weighted ICIS Basket of Automotive Petrochemicals (IBAP).

ICIS produces a monthly Global Automotive report covering the major automotive chemicals markets, the auto-industry, the IBAPs and macroeconomic trends. For more information on the report and details on how to subscribe, please click here

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