Price upswing gains momentum / PA 6, POM and PMMA rise / PC, PA 6.6 and PBT flat / Automotive demand still lively / More hikes on the horizon
European prices for engineering thermoplastics are gradually moving upward as 2014 progresses. PA 6, which is driven in particular by benzene, was hit the hardest in April as producers leveraging an already tight market pushed through hikes at the beginning of the new quarter. Despite producers' efforts, PC and PA 6.6 did not show much momentum. Due to strong resistance from automotive customers, most prices rolled over. The situation for PBT was much the same. In the POM segment, notations for specified grades rose, but cheap imports kept standard products on a tight leash. PMMA's upswing largely paralleled that of PA 6. By contrast, the near-commodities ABS and PP compounds rose only moderately.
Notations for PA 6 are clearly firming. Maintenance turnarounds for caprolactam feedstock are also restricting compounding activity. Compounders would be happy to supply the lively demand, but do not always have sufficient base polymer. No other engineering polymer faces such turbulence.
For May, further rises are likely, certainly for PA 6. The ongoing benzene surge has put such pressure on PC that here, too, producers are firmly resolved to push through increases, even if these may not take effect until after the semi-annual price rounds in June. PBT will continue to hover gently above the turbulence, with POM producers still having to battle imports. Those PMMA buyers not yet paying the higher prices implemented at the beginning of Q2 will be pulled up. PP compounds and ABS will continue to be driven by the forces of the commodity markets in which they play.
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