Film-grade PE buyers had been successful in warding off the increase in February, but higher feedstock prices and suppliers' push for margin improvement won out in March. North American PE prices now are up an average of 9 cents per pound so far in 2013.
However, buyers were not giving an additional 4-cent hike on the table for April much chance of success because of slow demand growth and more recent feedstock price fluctuations.
A PE buyer in the Southeast U.S. said he now anticipates that regional PE prices will stabilize for a few months. PE makers "had their run-up," the buyer said. "Now prices might not change that much through the summer."
All three major types of PE — high, low and linear low density — showed growth in the first two months of 2013, according to the American Chemistry Council in Washington.
U.S./Canadian demand growth was especially robust for HDPE (up 7 percent) and LDPE (up 8 percent). For both grades, export sales growth of more than 20 percent boosted domestic sales growth of more than 4 percent.
In HDPE, sales into injection molding uses — including pails and housewares — were up more than 7 percent in the two-month period. For LDPE, sales into non-coating extruded products were up almost 30 percent.
LLDPE growth was more muted, according to ACC, checking in at just under 2 percent. Export sales growth of almost 5 percent helped boost domestic sales growth of just over 1 percent. Sales into injection molding applications were up 11 percent, while sales into trash and can liner film were up more than 6 percent.
By Frank Esposito
SENIOR STAFF REPORTER