This marked the first time since 2013 that global petrochemical prices have climbed for three consecutive months. Petrochemical prices, expressed as a monthly average, increased $97 per metric ton (/mt) from March to $1,052/mt in April, according to the just-released monthly Platts Global Petrochemical Index (PGPI).

The PGPI is a benchmark basket of seven widely used petrochemicals and is published by Platts, a leading global provider of energy, petrochemicals, metals and agriculture information and a top source of benchmark price references.

"Petrochemical prices were reacting to increasing crude and naphtha prices," said Jim Foster, director of petrochemical analysis at Platts. "Naphtha, which is the most commonly used feedstock to produce olefins, climbed 13% in April as crude was up about 16%. As those feedstock prices climb, petrochemicals tend to trend higher. The tightness in supply due to maintenance turnarounds in the global ethylene markets also contributed to the strong gains."

Prices of olefins – a group of hydrocarbon compounds which are the building blocks of many petrochemical products used to produce everyday goods – were mixed in April. Ethylene prices jumped 19% to $1,096/mt. Maintenance turnarounds caused tight supply in the global ethylene markets, pushing the price higher. Propylene, though, saw prices fall 2% in April as strong refinery production rates pushed more propylene into the market.

Polyethylene and polypropylene, plastics manufactured from ethylene and propylene respectively, were both stronger in April. Global polyethylene prices climbed 12% to $1,422/mt, while global polypropylene prices increased 7% to $1,368/mt.

Prices of aromatics – a group of scented hydrocarbons with benzene rings used to make a variety of petrochemicals – also was also on an uptrend in April. Benzene saw the largest increase of any aromatic component in the PGPI, with prices climbing 14% from March to $831/mt in April. Toluene prices rose 6% to $730/mt, while paraxylene prices were up 9% at $859/mt.

Global equity markets were higher in April. The London Stock Exchange Index (FTSE) posted a 3% gain, while the NIKKEI 225 was up 2% last month. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 1% in April.

A summary of the April performance of each of the seven key petrochemicals included in the PGPI is available upon request.

The PGPI reflects a compilation of the daily price assessments of physical spot market ethylene, propylene, benzene, toluene, paraxylene, low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and polypropylene as published by Platts and is weighted by the three regions of Asia, Europe and the United States. Used as a price reference, a gauge of sector activity, and a measure of comparison for determining the profitability of selling a barrel of crude oil intact or refining it into products, the PGPI was first published by Platts in August 2007.