The going remains tough in the solid polystyrene market, as resin prices dropped an average of 3 cents per pound in June and July, according to PS buyers, producers and distributors contacted recently.
``The prime market has been going down all year,'' a major East Coast PS buyer said. ``And prices for wide-spec and off-spec are down even more.
``There's more than enough capacity for what [PS makers] are seeing in demand.''
The latest declines bring the total solid PS price reduction to an average of 6 cents per pound this year. That represents a drop of about 11 percent on crystal and high-impact injection molding grades, according to the Plastics News resin pricing chart.
Through May, total U.S./Canadian PS sales - including expandable PS - were down more than 10 percent, according to the American Plastics Council in Arlington, Va. Taking EPS out of the picture leaves solid PS with a sales loss of about 9 percent, since EPS alone had dropped more than 15 percent through May.
Sales into the powerful food-service sector - which brings in more than 25 percent of total U.S./Canadian PS sales - were down only 4 percent, but export sales and sales to resellers/compounders were down 36 percent and 19 percent, respectively. Combined, those segments represented almost 17 percent of U.S./Canadian PS sales through May.
The only end market that showed growth through May was furniture and construction, where sales were up almost 2 percent. U.S./Canadian production numbers were unavailable, but industry sources estimate that operating rates remain in the mid-80s.
On the capacity front, the industry is bracing for Atofina Petrochemicals Inc.'s 500 million-pound-per-year expansion of its Carville, La., plant next year. Producers and buyers alike agree the capacity will not be needed immediately if recent growth numbers continue into 2002.