AKRON, OHIO — Prices on nylon 6 and 6/6 climbed an average of 6 cents per pound in recent months, while commodity ABS and general-purpose grades of acrylic resin each decreased an average of 3 cents per pound since January, according to resin producers and buyers contacted recently.
These changes are reflected on this week's Plastics News resin pricing chart.
Principal nylon makers — including market leader DuPont Co. of Wilmington, Del.; AlliedSignal Inc. of Morristown, N.J.; and BASF Corp. of Mount Olive, N.J. — issued a range of increases beginning in February. Most of those attempts landed in the 9-12 cent range.
Continued strong demand in the automotive and electrical/electronic markets helped push the increase through, although some larger automotive suppliers were able to hold their prices at original levels, according to industry sources.
``Auto builds have stayed strong and a lot of air-intake manifold programs we started three or four years ago are coming on stream this year,'' said Michael Crickenberger, DuPont's Americas regional business manager.
But Crickenberger added that the automotive market, which accounts for about 40 percent of overall nylon sales, increasingly is becoming ``a very difficult area of negotiation.''
``[Nylon makers] are beginning to make choices as to if they want to supply automotive suppliers,'' he said. ``It's a combination of [auto suppliers] not being willing to take price increases and the fact that [original equipment manufacturers] are getting aggressive at looking at alternate materials.''
In the first two months of the year, North American nylon production climbed 13 percent, while sales and captive use saw a boost of almost 7 percent, according to the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., based in Washington.
``I don't see any area in nylon slowing down,'' said John Uhlein, an industry analyst with Peppin & Associates in Chesterfield, Mo. ``Auto manifolds are just starting to take off. We should really see large chunks of material consumed [in manifolds] by 2000.''
In ABS, continued oversupply and intermaterial competition resulted in the 3 cent downturn, industry sources said.
ABS production — led in North America by GE Plastics of Pittsfield, Mass., and Bayer Corp. of Pittsburgh — fell almost 13 percent through February, according to SPI, while sales climbed 4.5 percent.
One industry source said ABS producers are focusing on regaining automotive market share lost to polypropylene and other materials.
Acrylic manufacturers and buyers said flat year-to-year volume, combined with increased availability of lower-priced material from Asian markets, were among the reasons for the slump in pricing.
``There's been some movement on the lower end of the market,'' an industry executive said. ``And we're seeing a little more offshore material coming in, but the automotive and lighting markets are still very strong.''
The acrylic market is expected to grow at a 2 percent annual rate between 1996 and 2001, according to SRI International of Menlo Park, Calif.
The merchant acrylic market is led by AtoHaas North America of Philadelphia, Cyro Industries Inc. of Rockaway, N.J., and ICI Acrylics of Wilmington, Del., although each of those firms consumes a good deal of its own material in-house through sheet production.