2018 has been a tough year for the PE markets in Asia as global trade wars and currency issues made most of the headlines of the year, affecting trade quite negatively. Import PE prices across the region started the year on a firm footing, but they have largely failed to maintain it since around February.
Import PE prices in China lose 19-23% since February
Data from ChemOrbis Price Index reveal that the weekly averages of LDPE and LLDPE film prices on CIF China basis have witnessed cumulative decreases of around 19-21% since late January while both of them are currently standing at their lowest levels since March 2009.
China’s import LDPE, LLDPE hit almost 10-year-low, HDPE is the only exception
As for HDPE film prices in China, their weekly average has plunged by around 23% since it hit a more than three-year high in early February. Data suggest that the HDPE film market has recently reached its lowest level since July 2017.
US-China trade war affects manufacturing sectors most
An escalation of trade tensions between China and the US has started to affect the PE market from around March onwards this year. The Chinese yuan reached record low levels against the US dollar, depreciating by more than 10% since the beginning of the year, while the manufacturing activity mostly stalled.
Amid a weaker yuan and a growing uncertainty regarding their export business to the US, end product manufacturers in China limited their purchasing volumes and largely adopted a wait-and-see attitude for the most part of 2018.
SE Asia’s PE market suffers from excess supply from US
The excess supply from the new PE capacities in the US was originally and largely expected to find its way to China. However, US PE exporters started to look for alternative outlets after the trade war between the US and China officially kicked off in June.
Particularly after August, increasingly more PE offers from the US started to appear in Southeast Asia at comparatively competitive prices. In addition to rapidly increasing supplies, depreciating local currencies against the US dollar sent the region’s PE markets to multi-year lows.
Import prices in SEA near 10-year-lows
According to data from ChemOrbis Price Index, the weekly averages of PE prices on CIF SEA basis have lost 28% for HDPE film, 26% for LDPE film and 21% for LLDPE film since around February.
The CIF Southeast Asia based prices for LDPE, LLDPE and HDPE film have reached their lowest levels since March 2009, data also indicate.
PE faced extra pressure from slumping crude oil
After hitting around a four-year high at the start of October, WTI crude oil futures plummeted by around 32% in the following two months and reached their lowest since October 2017.
Although oil prices displayed a slight rebound in early December after the OPEC deal, many players believe that the cartel’s decision is not enough to clear away the uncertainty hanging over the future direction of prices.