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Polystyrene sees first sales growth since 2011

By: Frank Esposito

February 4, 2014

Linear low density polyethylene enjoyed the best 2013 sales year among major commodity resins in the U.S. and Canada – but the polystyrene market is probably breaking out the champagne.

LLDPE sales grew 3.7 percent in the U.S. and Canada last year, according to the American Chemistry Council in Washington. That was the highest growth rate of the six commodity resins tracked by ACC.

Growth in PS, including Mexico, was more modest at 1.1 percent – but that was enough to nudge that market into positive sales territory for the first time since 2011.

PS results for 2013 were fueled by growth of 1.7 percent for sales into consumer/institutional uses and of 1.5 percent in food packaging/food service. Those were the two largest end markets for North American PS in 2013, according to ACC.

After LLDPE, LDPE sales checked in with 2013 growth of 2.4 percent. High density PE sales ticked up 1.1 percent for the year, while sales of PVC were flat. Regional polypropylene makers are looking for better results in 2014, after sales of the material fell 0.8 percent during 2013.

Both LDPE and LLDPE benefited from strong export sales growth for the year. LDPE exports grew 11.8 percent, while LLDPE exports increased 12.0 percent. That helped boost flat domestic sales for LDPE, as well as domestic LLDPE sales which had moved up only 1.4 percent.

HDPE was amazingly consistent in 2013, with domestic, export and overall sales each up 1.1 percent. In the domestic HDPE market, sales into pipe and conduit surged ahead 7.3 percent in 2013.

In PVC, domestic growth of 4.3 percent was neutralized by a decline of 7.5 percent in export sales. A similar – but more extreme – scenario played out in the PP market, where a 35.3 percent plunge in export sales overwhelmed domestic growth of 0.9 percent.