After an extended period of heightened activity

After an extended period of heightened activity, spot plastics trading chilled a bit this past week, according to the spot-trading platform The Plastics Exchange. Most polyethylene resins held on to their recent gains, although a couple film grades advanced further. At least half, and perhaps all of the $.04/lb price increase nominated for February polyethylene contracts will likely take hold. While spot PE prices certainly move around, contracts have been flat ever since securing a $.05/lb increase back in September. Spot polypropylene prices rebounded a penny this past week; it was the first gain in over a month. Feb contracts are settling down $.01/lb, and while there were nominations for a slight increase, most participants recognized that a modest decrease was probable, but the penny relief was a tad shy of some expectations, according to The Plastics Exchange CEO Michael Greenberg.

Energy markets moved higher as march crude oil futures traded in a very narrow range and ended the week at $100.30/bbl, it was a small $.42/bbl gain. The oil market has returned to the end of 2013 levels. Natural Gas prices continued their extremely volatile ways and had another huge $.85/mmBtu range. The March futures contract began the week under pressure, but then soared as another round of frigid temps and snowstorms gripped the Eastern half of the country. By Friday’s close, the market had reached $5.214/mmBtu, a net gain of $.439/mmBtu. The crude oil: natural gas ratio contracted to 19.2:1. Spot ethane was relatively steady and ended the week a tick above $.40/gal ($.169/lb).

The ethylene market was fairly active, there were a number of outright transactions, but also a lot of multiple month strips and spread trading between months. A few crackers experienced seemingly minor production issues during the week. Ethylene forFebruary delivery traded down fractionally, as low as $.52/lb through Wednesday, but then proceeded to drop even further to $.50/lb, for a nearly $.03/lb weekly loss. The ethylene forward curve flattened considerably; while it still holds a contango shape through May, the peak premium shrunk to about a half-cent. The deferred months are still priced with discounts, but the backwardation is now much milder – prices throughout 2014 are currently all somewhat similar.

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