Are polymer prices on the rebound?

With the exception of the Benzene Contract price, C2 (ethylene) and C3 (propylene) contract prices recorded a rollover and contract SM (styrene monomer) recorded an increase. These changes in fortune come after 4 consecutive months of losses for C2 and C3 and two months where SM pricing has faced significant reduction.

The C2 and C3 price rollover contrasts with an increase in average Brent Crude pricing of £21.27 per tonne comparing June with July and adds further inflationary pressure, both in terms of feedstock and energy costs.

Click the table above to zoom in.

The increase in spot SM and SM contract pricing comes as a result of SM capacity restrictions in Europe, whereby a joint venture PO (propylene oxide) /SM Covestro/Lynodell Basell plant has been idled due to lack of demand for PO (a precursor for polyurethane) and Trinseo has suffered an unplanned SM outage. Such is the perceived impact of these outages, that the spot price of SM is now at the contract price level.

Whilst demand for PS and other styrenic polymers remains subdued, polymer producers have already announced price increases for August.

Polyolefin producers appear to be taking a selective approach for August price increases and are pushing through increases in markets/applications where supply and demand are more favourably balanced, with the expectation that a more widespread set of price increases are about to be pushed through for September.

The graph above clearly depicts C3 spot pricing collapsing to the level of Naphtha and C2 spot pricing also heading towards this unsustainable level.

The situation for high performance and engineering polymers is quite mixed, with more commoditised types such as POM and standard PC facing the greatest pressure as competitively priced imports from outside of Europe set the lower end of the price range. The price of specialised materials is more stable, with producers reluctantly passing through decreases either to fend off competition or to match falling input prices.

The second half of the calendar year looks set for a period of change, with the price of volume polymers expected to lead the way. In support of this expectation is clear evidence that the ‘mega bargains’ that were present at the beginning of the summer, have long since disappeared.

Monomer Price Movement
Change (Contract)
C2 (Ethylene)
C3 (Propylene)
SM (Styrene Monomer)
Brent Crude (monthly average)
Exchange Rate

Mike Boswell
Managing Director – Plastribution Group

Oil Prices

No Data Found

Exchange Rates

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UK Economic Data







Real GDP (Q on Q)

Q1 2023


UK Output

Manufacturing Index

Q1 2023



New Car Registrations (Y on Y)

June 23



Retail Sales (Y on Y)

May 23



Unemployment Rate

March – May 2023



CPI (Y on Y)




RPI (Y on Y)



Interest Rates

Bank of England Base Rate




After many months of falls, we finally saw a rollover in monomers into August. This was broadly in line with expectations. Some producers have seen this as an opportunity to raise prices having lost margin over recent months but after push back, some have retreated to rollover or reduced their ambitions. Whilst some initially sought +€100 / MT, PE is more like +€20 / MT and PP seems to be broadly rollover.

Whilst any increase is seen as ambitious in the current market, we are seeing signs of change in sentiment, particularly in the USA with their domestic demand improving and prices for exports increasing as a result. We’re also now into Hurricane season and that raises the spectre of interruptions to supply in the coming months. Europe is dependent on imports for HDPE and LLDPE and these grades are starting to show signs of tightness. As a result, there is more confidence in achieving prices increases this month and pushing for bigger increases in September.

PP is slightly less clear and whilst there is an expectation of increases in September based on improved demand post European holidays, it’s unlikely to be as significant as PE with a slightly more balanced Supply and Demand situation.

Some concerns for September are glitches in the Supply Chain. Having enjoyed many months of easy supply and sort lead times, the supply pipeline is looking a bit more fragile. Traders are running lower stocks as they wrestle with increased financing costs and low returns and producers have been reducing output and clearing stocks over the summer to be ready for this Autumn push for increases. Now might be the time to look at taking some extra safety stock.

Ian Chisnall
Product Manager – Polyolefins

Polyolefins Feedstocks
£/Metric Tonne by month

No Data Found



LDPE is mostly rolling over but there are attempts at small increases on the back of much improved demand compared to recent months. Some producers are putting in order stops having sold more than anticipated. Very likely to see stronger increases in September.



C4 LLDPE is under pressure as import levels are dropping and tightening the market. Low priced spot deals are no longer available and in general, prices are up €20-50 / MT depending on the starting point. Metallocene is still well supplied and is rolling over, but the picture may change in September.  



HDPE is also seeing reduced levels of imports and an increase in demand / restocking. Increases of €50 / MT are demanded and, in some cases, achieved as producers take a bolder approach to pricing with a take it or leave it position. Additional orders are being refused and we should expect further stronger increases in September.



PP is not as clear as PE in terms of the price position of some suppliers and the outlook for September. There are some Force Majeures in place and availability on some grades of Co-polymer has been an issue. However, the overall picture is of a relatively balanced market and prices are broadly rolling over as a result. Some are asking for +€20 / MT but this is from suppliers with more limited availability.

Whilst PE has a very strong case for increases in September, the argument for PP is less strong as demand still appears to be weak in key sectors. We are still expecting an increase in PP pricing in September, but it’s not expected to be as big as PE.

Other Polyolefins

EVA pricing is still relatively weak on the back of very poor demand. Whilst supply is still restricted with Total experiencing problems in production, other producers have more than enough to go around. Polyolefin Elastomers prices rolled over in line with monomer.


EU Contract SM notations have been in a slow decline since Q3 2022, driven by poor demand, and oversupply.  Due to this poor demand, in mid-July a large EU SM plant was mothballed, initially for July and August, but with the possibility to extend further.  This plant accounts for 12% (640kt/y) of total EU SM Production.  On the 31st of July a Belgian SM plant stopped production due to issues with downstream supply, and there are rumours of a German plant maintenance shutdown.

The outcome of this is that EU SM production is currently running at 50% of usual levels, and while US imports would usually take up the slack, a major Texan plant announced force majeure in mid-July.

Due to these shortages, spot styrene monomer prices surged upwards by over €400/T (40%) to €1405/T.  Contract SM price has remained more subdued and increased by €108/T moving into August.  This has caused EU GPPS and HIPS to increase by €110/T, and EU ABS by €55/T on average (further ABS rises curtailed as butadiene fell €150/T, and ACN softened by €16/T).  If the Spot SM price remains high throughout August, it is very likely further increases will be seen in September.

To compound the problem, GPPS/HIPS/ABS supply chains are empty.  Polymer producers have been running output at a minimum due to poor demand, and converters and distributors running inventory at very low levels due to financial pressures.  Therefore, the shift in SM/PS prices is likely to have an instant effect.

It is to be noted that the shift in EU styrene monomer is unlikely to have a large effect on Styrenic materials imported from the Far East.

Andrew Waterfield
Product Supervisor – Styrenics

Styrenics Feedstocks
£/Metric Tonne by month

No Data Found



July contract SM fell by €87/T, and spot SM price varied wildly.  It is felt that the gap between spot and contact SM is too large. Despite this GPPS and HIPS prices reduced in line with monomer

August contract SM rose by €108/T, with PS increasing by similar amounts. Monomer shortages could further impact PS supply, where producers have been running at minimum output, but demand is expected to be low due to the summer holiday season.



July ABS saw a reduction of around €90/T.  Oversupply was an issue, even with EU plants throttled, but demand remained poor, even at a lower price point.

August ABS looks steady (SM +€108/t, butadiene -€ 150/t, ACN -€16/t).  Oversupply still stands, and demand is held back by a weak economy and high interest rates, restricting any appetite for inventory building.



As usual, PC/ABS price is following the trend of ABS.

Other Styrenics

SAN and specialities such as ASA and SMMA continue to follow the price trend of ABS.

Engineering Polymers

Prices for almost all engineering polymers continues to reduce off the back of poor demand, cheap imports mainly from Asia and the start of the holiday season. It was also not helped by the ending of many supplier price energy surcharges which has resulted in many cases with even higher price reductions.

Overall, the market is still very well supplied, despite producers cutting back output rates and having extended maintenance shutdowns.

There is no sign yet of this situation changing, with possibly a further small adjustment before the bottom of the market is reached in most cases. There is a small glimmer of hope that the market will improve going into September and the last quarter of the year, but this is by no means certain.

The benzene contract was fixed €18/mt lower for August due to weak demand, reduced market activity and lower output rates. This will inevitably filter down to all the relevant engineering polymers.

Sharron Jarvis
Product Supervisor – Engineering Polymers

Engineering Polymer Feedstocks
£/Metric Tonne by month

No Data Found



Weak demand across Europe due to the holiday period, and a high level of imports means that prices will only move downwards.



A similar picture to PA6, extremely poor demand, cheaper imports, and downward pressure on prices, with no sign of any improvement before the end of the summer vacation period.



Cheaper imports from Asia continue to put downward pressure on pricing at the same time as overall market demand is very low. Production in Europe continues to be reduced to mirror the poor demand from the automotive sector and other market segments.


The benzene contract has reduced further in August which puts further downward pressure on prices. This, coupled with weak demand means prices are only going one way. Imports from Asia remain high.



Cheaper material from Asia, coupled with lower MMA costs continue to put pressure on prices. There are some signs that automotive demand will pick up slowly after the summer holiday period, but higher interest rates may erode consumer confidence when making large purchase decisions.



The same situation as for many engineering polymers, weak demand, extended holidays, maintenance shutdowns and downward pressure on prices.

Other Engineering Polymers

The situation for other engineering polymers is broadly similar. All materials are reducing in price, the market remains weak and there is greater availability from cheaper Asian imports.

Contact Mike Boswell

Managing Director – Plastribution Group

Contact Ian Chisnall

Product Manager – Polyolefins

Contact Andrew Waterfield

Product Supervisor – Styrenics

Contact Sharron Jarvis

Product Supervisor – Engineering Polymers

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