Market Update June 4

by | Jun 4, 2020

The spot resin markets were very active as May came to a close, it was a stark change from the slow start to the month when many processors were shut down due to the pandemic. Domestic prices held steady this week with a firm undertone and offgrade prices snugged up a bit closer to Prime levels. Recovering energy and feedstock costs lent strength to international resin prices, which were supportive to Houston levels. Strong export demand persisted, particularly for Polyethylene, but producers were essentially sold out as of the previous week and intend to raise asking prices for June sales. There were a few Prime Polypropylene railcars to move since some resellers’ sales fell short of their forecasts as the automotive sector still lagged. While we are all enthusiastic towards a full economic recovery, a bit of caution should be noted as tensions have flared further with China, now over Hong Kong, Latin America has seen a surge of Covid cases and social unrest continues to boil over here in the US. These are truly volatile times that we are living in; oh, and if those were not enough, June 1st marks the beginning of the Hurricane Season and the warm Gulf waters point to an exceptionally active season. Here’s an idea… how about we all take a collective Mulligan on 2020 and just start the year over?!?

The major energy markets saw nice two-sided trade this past week as volatility picked back up. WTI Crude Oil moved in a relatively wide range while maintaining its recovery uptrend; the July futures contract added another $2.24/bbl to $35.49/bbl, the highest since early March. Brent Oil saw similar action and the August contract gained $2.18/bbl to $37.84/bbl. Nat Gas Futures bounced around in a 21-cent range and by the end of the week, the July contract had shed $.032/mmBtu to end at $1.849/mmBtu. NGLs prices were strong. Ethane jumped $.023/gal, more than 10%, to $.22/gal ($.093/lb) and Propane was up $.02/gal to $.47/gal ($.133/lb).

Monomer trading was good, volume was better than expected during the holiday shortened week and prices were mixed. Ethylene activity was rather quiet until midweek when participants emerged eager to transact. A couple of May Ethylene deals were inked at $.12/lb and multiple transactions were completed for future delivery in both Louisiana and Texas. Prompt material changed hands again at $.1225/lb which is where it settled on Friday, up a quarter-cent. Forward Ethylene prices also inched a bit higher widening the contango, which peaks at the end of 2021 just a shade under $.16/lb. Propylene interest was solid and numerous transactions were executed throughout the week. May PGP sold a few times on Tues / Wed at $.22/lb and then attention turned to the forward market. Several 4th quarter deals were then finalized which steepened the contango, the PGP curve also peaks at the end of 2021 at nearly $.30/lb. May PGP contract negotiations finally concluded at a rollover from April and so remained at $.26/lb.

The Spot Polyethylene market followed a heavy volume week with another strong performance despite being shortened by Memorial Day. Our trading desk was very busy from the get-go – quoting, transacting and sharing market intelligence with our buyers / sellers and we ultimately completed an above average number of deals to wrap up a solid month. Given the slow period at the end of April and first part of May, the rebound in activity was very encouraging and a sign that our economy is recovering nicely. Resin availability was ample, and all commodity grades were accessible, though the supply overhang has mostly cleared to strong domestic demand and even stronger export sales. Our business was well spread out this past week, traders bought resin for their inventory, while many processors tapped our spot market to both procure material and get a good gauge of market conditions. Some who sensed the upward price momentum bought extra resin fearing that this would be their last chance at these stellar prices, while others, still reeling from demand loss, decided to wait not because of price, but rather uncertainty regarding future business. Our spot prices did hold steady across the board this past week with a firming tone as producers seek a $.04/lb price increase for June contracts to recoup the $.04/lb that was relinquished in April. We expect asking prices to jump next week, it remains to be seen if buyers will be willing to pay up much at this juncture.

Spot Polypropylene trading was a tad off pace, prices held steady for the 4th week in a row, and buyers remained reluctant to build inventories, opting to purchase only for near term manufacturing needs. Resin availability was sufficient, and we saw relatively little price spread between railcars of Prime and offgrade resin, though a deep discount was afforded for really rough material. As our truckload demand exceeded railcar interest, buyers were willing to pay up nicely for packaged material. The PP market relies on the domestic market for the vast majority of sales, quite different than PE which exports some 40% of production. With so many processing facilities temporarily shut, the PP market has struggled during the pandemic period and April sales were the lowest since Feb 2018. Though resin production has throttled back, upstream inventories have been building, but are still very low on a historic basis. PP prices are closely correlated to monomer costs and PGP has remained quite stable; we remain optimistic that PP demand will improve as the economy gets back on track.

Shannon Industrial is a unique business with over 50yrs experience in the plastic industry. Shannon’s Beliefs have always been loyalty, growing relationships, and providing the best possible service based on those relationships. With Shannon’s 65,000 square foot warehouse, and 38 car rail siting we have over 3 million pounds of material on hand. Material’s ranging from Commodity resins to the most obscure exotics. Shannon can accommodate orders and execute delivery on a moment’s notice.