European PE prices up, but buyers resist sellers' attempts to improve margins

09 February 2018 12:42 Source:ICIS News

LONDON (ICIS)--European polyethylene (PE) prices are moving up in February, but buyers are holding firm at paying more than the increase in the February ethylene contract, sources said on Friday.

The February ethylene contract rose by €20/tonne, and some sellers were targeting much higher levels for February business.

Buyers were resisting such a move, as they saw no supply issues in most grades, and could get alternatives whenever sellers insisted, they said.

Upstream weakness in crude oil and naphtha was also affecting sentiment.

On the other hand, European prices are low in global terms, and importers have shifted volumes towards Asia, where netbacks are better.

Traders expressed frustration at the current situation.

“Outside Europe things are booming,” said one. “Fresh imports are getting more difficult.”

Sales prices would have to be higher than current spot levels, they said, even after most levels have seen a fillip in recent weeks.

The threat of new North America capacities loomed large over the market, even though little has been seen so far, and the US domestic market remains too strong for low-priced imports to be offered into Europe.

Material would have to arrive at some point, however, and this point was expected by most to be arriving in the second half of 2018.

“They [producers] are trying to pass on increases now because if it’s not for tomorrow, they will be facing competition the day after,” said a buyer.

PE discussions are notoriously long in Europe, as many deals are done at the end of the month.

PE is used in packaging, the manufacture of household goods, and also in the agricultural industry.

Pictured: Agricultural 'polytunnels' made of PE in the UK
Source: Tim Graham/Robert Harding/REX/Shutterstock

By Linda Naylor