29 March, 2018
Trading activities in the European polyolefin markets have barely picked up ahead of the imminent Easter holidays, which will start on April 1. Although April ethylene and propylene contracts settled with €10/ton increases in line with the expectations, it has not created a boost in demand as buyers have moved to the sidelines to observe the market for a better perception of the future trend.
PE prices are still reportedly under the pressure of ample supplies and some traders’ aggressive approach, which previously paved the way for bearish expectations for April. However, these expectations have evolved following the recent rebound of the energy complex and the higher monomer settlement.
Some sellers hope to see better demand in April, believing that buyers who have been running down their stocks will return to the market to replenish. This, in conjunction with the higher ethylene settlement, might encourage PE suppliers to seek rollovers or slight increases for April.
Nevertheless, some players expect no visible changes in demand, noting that April will be a short month in terms of trading activities due to some festivities. If demand remains low next month, it might counterbalance possible hike attempts from PE suppliers.
A regional distributor commented, “Demand was relatively better in the first half of March while it has slowed down recently as buyers take a wait and see stance. We believe that producers will try to apply small increases on their April offers following the higher ethylene settlement, yet demand will be the main factor setting the tone of the market.”
Prior to the rebound of upstream costs, players’ PP expectations for April mostly centered on a stable to softer trend due to the shorter working days. In line with the recent shift in the upstream sentiment, players already voiced their expectations to see slight increases in the next propylene contracts earlier this week. “In that case, PP sellers might also approach the market with some increases. Ongoing maintenance shutdowns as well as the fact that PP performs better than PE may also give them an upper hand in seeking hikes for April,” many players argue.
“We expect small increases of €20/ton in April PP offers on the back of rising energy costs along with spot propylene prices,” noted a packaging manufacturer from Germany.
A distributor also opined prior to the April propylene settlement, “The PP market appears to be in balance and it has been supported by several production outages across the region during the month. As for April, small increases might be obtained especially if propylene settles higher. Still, shorter working days might lead to slower activity and keep the upward trend in check.”
A converter in Germany said, “We faced some difficulties in finding extra material for specialty grades while regular grades were accessible. We expect stable prices in April as demand did not substantially change despite Easter holidays.”