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Lower demand, feedstock costs drive down PS prices in April

By: Frank Esposito

May 9, 2013

AKRON, OHIO — Lower feedstock costs and waning demand led North American solid polystyrene resin prices to tick down an average of 3 cents per pound in April.

It's the second price drop to hit the regional solid PS market in the last three months. Prices had been flat in March after falling an average of 2 cents in February. The 5-cent drop so far in 2013 equates to a decline of about 4 percent, based on prices for high-impact PS used in injection molding, according to the Plastics News resin pricing chart. Solid PS prices saw a net gain of 10 cents for full-year 2012.

Market sources said that the decline was due in part to lower prices for benzene used to make styrene monomer feedstock. Benzene prices for April were $4.36 per gallon, down 7 percent from March levels. Prices for benzene declined steadily after hitting an all-time high of $5.16 per gallon in January.

But those declines apparently have ended in May, as benzene prices for the month settled at $4.47 per gallon, up almost 3 percent vs. April. Sources said that increase could lead to higher PS resin prices in May or at least help to keep prices from declining further.

North American solid PS demand fell 2 percent in the first quarter of 2013, according to the American Chemistry Council in Washington. Sales of PS into the electrical/electronic end market provided a bright spot for the quarter, growing almost 12 percent.

During 2012, regional PS sales had fallen 3.5 percent. The region's PS market is looking to reverse a long-term slide caused by high prices and competition from other resins.

Also this week, PN is correcting prices for expanded PS (EPS) on its pricing chart to show changes that have occurred since early 2012. EPS prices have increased a net of 16 cents per pound in that period, for an upward swing of about 12 percent.

The correction is shown on EPS grades used in cups as well as on unmodified grades on this week's chart.

EPS sales in the U.S. and Canada fell 10 percent in the first quarter of 2013, according to ACC. The regional EPS market is trying to recapture the momentum of 2012, when sales boomed almost 8 percent. That increase was fueled by a sales gain of almost 40 percent in EPS used in shape applications.