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Material Insights: Auto show news, and PS resin increase

DETROIT — Today's Material Insights video includes news from the North American International Auto Show, plus details behind a recent resin price hike.

Published: January 20, 2014 2:22 pm ET
Updated: January 27, 2014 8:57 am ET

DETROIT — Today's Material Insights video includes news from the North American International Auto Show, plus details behind a recent resin price hike.

North American prices for polystyrene resin finished 2013 with a 4-cent jump.

The success of the December increase surprised some market watchers, since demand for the material usually slows later in the year.

The hike was tied to a stronger U-S economy and to greater demand for appliances and other big-ticket items that use polystyrene.

Higher prices for benzene feedstock also played a role. Benzene prices actually had fallen from October to November, but reversed course in December, jumping more than 9 percent to close at $4.48 per gallon. January prices for benzene have already closed up 8 percent, leading some market watchers to expect another polystyrene price hike in January.

Polystyrene prices had moved up and down quite a bit in 2013. The December increase allowed them to finish the year at a net of +4 cents per pound.

Regional polystyrene makers have reason to be encouraged. Demand growth in 2013 was up almost 1 percent, but that was only the second increase in the last 10 years. Through November. US and Canadian polystyrene sales were at just over 4.2 billion pounds, according to the American Chemistry Council.

Sales into food service and food packaging were up about 1 percent. Sales into electrical and electronic uses grew even more, climbing almost 2 percent through November.

In other news, PN News Editor Rhoda Miel was at the North American International Auto Show last week, and interviewed James Chrise, senior vice president at Bayer MaterialScience LLC; Jeff Sternberg, global automotive technology director at DuPont Co.; and Calvin Nichols, automotive market segment manager at BASF Corp., about materials-related sustainability trends.

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