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Factbox: PE, PVC producers seek higher prices as US shutdowns ease

Houston — US polyethylene and PVC producers are seeking price increases for domestic material in light of higher feedstock ethylene prices, and expect to see demand inch up as states emerge from stay-at-home orders.

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Detroit's big three automakers, Ford, GM and Fiat-Chrysler, also reopened manufacturing plants this week, which was expected to increase demand for polypropylene and other petrochemicals used by the sector.

However, 38.6 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits since mid-March, which market sources expect to make for a slow recovery.

Below are the latest updates from petrochemical markets:

INFRASTRUCTURE

**Completion of Shintech's $1.49 billion expansions across the PVC chain at its Louisiana complex has been pushed back to the first quarter of 2021 from late 2020 because of a slowdown in the work to ensure safety protocols on coronavirus pandemic concerns.

**April US housing starts fell 30.2% from March to their lowest seasonally adjusted level since February 2015, and authorized building permits fell 20.8% month on month, US Department of Commerce data released this week, with fallout seen in a sharp decline in PVC demand.

**Global petrochemical giant Dow Chemical shut down operating units and implemented flood preparedness and later recovery and cleanup plans this week as the Tittabawassee River adjacent to the company's Midland, Michigan, headquarters overflowed its banks when two upstream dams broke May 19.

PRICES

Olefins

**Non-LST ethane rose 0.375 cents/gal on the week to 24.75 cents/gal on Friday.

**May spot ethylene prices rose 1.125 cents on the week to 11.875 cents/lb FD Mont Belvieu, while the May FD Choctaw price rose 0.75 cent/lb week on week to 11.25 cents/lb.

**Non-LST propane rose 3.50 cents/gal on the week to finish Friday at 42.25 cents/gal.

**Spot polymer-grade propylene fell 1 cent on the week to 22 cents/lb FD USG, while May RGP was flat on the week at 10.75 cents/lb.

**US export monoethylene glycol prices were flat at 13.5-14.5 cents/lb FOB USG.

**US export butadiene prices fell 4.75 cents/lb week on week to 9 cents/lb CIF USG.

Polymers

**Export low density PE prices were flat this week at $849-$871/mt (38.5-39.5 cents/lb) FAS Houston.

**Export linear low density PE butene prices were flat this week at $596-$618/mt (27-28 cents/lb) FAS Houston.

**Export high density PE blowmolding prices were flat this week at $618-$640/mt (28-29 cents/lb) FAS Houston.

**Export homopolymer PP prices rose $33/mt this week to $783-$805/mt (35.5-36.5 cents/lb) FAS Houston.

**Export ethylene dichloride prices rose $10/mt this week to $70-$80/mt FOB USG.

**Export PVC prices were unchanged this week at $570-$580/mt FAS Houston.

**US import polyethylene terephthalate prices rose $10/mt to $867/mt DDP West Coast.

**Spot export general purpose polystyrene prices were flat at $870-$892/mt FAS Houston.

**Latin American homopolymer PP prices were unchanged on the week at $845-855/mt CFR WCSA, and $860-$880/mt CFR Brazil.

**Latin American HDPE film prices rose $20/mt on the week to $725-$735/mt CFR WCSA and were flat at $710-$730/mt CFR Brazil.

**Latin American LDPE prices were flat on the week at $945-$955/mt CFR WCSA and $950-$970/mt CFR Brazil.

**Latin American LLDPE prices rose $20/mt on the week at $705-$715/mt CFR WCSA and flat week on week at $690-$710/mt CFR Brazil.

**Latin American PVC prices were unchanged at $595-$605/mt CFR WCSA and $665-$675/mt CFR Brazil.

**Baystar, which is building a 625,000 mt/year HDPE plant along the Houston Ship Channel, this week joined several other PE producers in announcing a 4 cents/lb price increase for all PE resins effective June 1.

**Braskem will raise LDPE and PP prices for the rest of May by Real 150/mt ($26.61/mt), according to industry sources, while HDPE and LLDPE prices will remain unchanged.

**All four US PVC producers this week announced 3 cents/lb price increases for domestic material effective June 1 which, if accepted, would partially restore the 5 cents/lb price decline in April as coronavirus pandemic-related shutdowns crushed demand.

Aromatics

**US MTBE prices fell 1.88 cents on the day Friday to 99.75 cents/gal.

**US methanol FOB USG prices were flat on the day Friday at 54 cents/gal.

**May benzene was assessed at 103 cents/gal DDP USG, up 4 cents on the week.

**US styrene monomer for May closed the week up $10/mt to finish Friday at $510/mt

**May FOB USG nitration-grade toluene prices rose 2 cents on the week to finish Friday at 121 cents/gal.

**Toluene's US blend values rose just over 55 cents to about 144 cents/gal in the first half of May on the back of stronger regrade values, S&P Global Platts data showed.

**May FOB USG mixed xylenes prices were flat Friday at 129 cents/gal.

**FOB USG paraxylene prices fell $20/mt on the week to $420/mt.

**FOB USG orthoxylene prices rose 1 cent to 24.75 cents/lb on Friday.

**LSR naphtha prices rose 9.50 cents/gal on the week to finish Friday at 61.50 cents/gal.

**May NYMEX RBOB settled down 0.96 cent at $1.0382/gal on Friday.

**US export 2-EH prices rose $40/mt to $550/mt FOB USG.

**US export n-butanol prices rose $40/mt to $530/mt FOB USG.

**US export acrylonitrile prices rose $20/mt on the week to $810/mt FOB USG.

**US export caustic soda prices were flat at $355-$365/mt FOB USG.

TRADE FLOWS

**A vessel carrying about 10,000 mt of MTBE was expected to head to Europe from the US Gulf Coast, according to sources, as the price spread between the two regions has made US exports increasingly economic.

**Brazilian PVC buyers are choosing domestic supply over imports because of the Real's sharp depreciation against the US dollar since early 2020.