The push to raise US polyethylene prices in February continued to grow Tuesday, with Equistar Chemicals and Chevron Phillips Chemical becoming the latest producers to announce a 4 cents/lb increase, according to letters to customers obtained by S&P Global Platts.
The announcements come on the heels of similar moves by Dow Chemical and ExxonMobil Chemical in recent days.
Equistar, a subsidiary of LyondellBasell, and CP Chem both said in customer communications that the increase applies to all grades of polyethylene.
While there has been talk of expected price decreases in the first quarter of the year, market sources said this week that strong demand and firming global prices in the wake of higher upstream prices are helping to support stable to firmer prices.
One buyer source noted that pushing for an increase in February could help pick up demand in January, potentially helping producers secure a rollover for contract prices.
January contracts remained unsettled Monday. US polyethylene contracts typically settle retroactively at the end of the month.
Platts assessed domestic HDPE contracts to end December at 65.5-66.5 cents/lb ($1,444-$1,466/mt) delivered rail-car basis for blowmolding, 65.5-66.5 cents/lb ($1,444-$1,466/mt) for injection, and 68.5-69.5 cents/lb ($1,510-$1,532/mt) for film, while LLDPE butene contracts were assessed at 63.5-64.5 cents/lb ($1,400-$1,422/mt) and LDPE was at 75.5-76.5 cents/lb ($1,665-$1,687/mt) for delivered rail cars.
While early December expectations called for a decrease of 3-4 cents/lb, producers managed to hold prices flat on a market-wide basis. However, a number of downward adjustments to individual customers — talked by market sources in the range of 3-6 cents/lb, depending on grade and volume — left many buyers with a decrease heading into 2018. Platts assessed contract prices lower for December based on the downward adjustments.