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Synthetic Price Hikes Slow in March

Global synthetic fiber prices continued their year-over-year rise in March, increasing 8.8%, but the increase was the smallest in three months as polyester prices settled down from their lofty February levels.

Driven by oil prices and fiber intermediates supply patterns, the steady manmade fiber price increases that began last summer have impacted everything from the dominant polyester segment to smaller acrylic and polypropylene businesses.

In Asia, prices fell by 4.2% compared to February, but rose 11.4% year-over-year. Polyester prices have backed off their big increases due to weakening demand from both domestic and export markets. The significant nylon textile filament price increases that started toward the end of 2016 (because of raw materials shortages) and continued through first quarter 2017, seem to be backing off. Spandex prices have increased due to strong demand and tight supply of intermediates. Viscose prices are still relatively high due to strong demand and low inventory, but the increases have slowed. Acrylic prices rose as well in the month.

In the U.S., prices rose by 4 percent compared to last year, and 6.7% from last month. Polyester filament prices have been rising but are expected to flatten going forward as the apparel retail market continues to adjust to consumer shifts to non-traditional channels and demands for increased speed-to-market. Nylon prices have increased significantly over the past couple of months, though the hoped-for increase in military orders has not yet materialized. Spandex prices haven’t moved much.

It has been an unusually active period of foreign investment in the U.S. textile market. Several Chinese firms have invested in textile businesses, Lenzing is building a new Tencel plant, Indorama is reportedly investing in additional industrial filament fiber capacity in Alabama, and Formosa Plastics is planning to build a petrochemicals plant in Lousiana, and to expand its production facility in Texas. Invista is thought to be beginning discussions to sell its apparel fibers unit, which includes Lycra.

In Europe, prices rose 4.4% from last month and 10.2% from last year. The polyester filament business is quiet but stable. Staple demand is strong, thanks to the nonwovens segment. The nylon business is strong. Prices have been rising, and expected further increases have stimulated orders. Lenzing is expanding its Tencel capacity in Austria.