Ongoing feedstock pressures have pushed up average per-pound selling prices for solid polystyrene and ABS in recent months.
Planned and unplanned outages of styrene monomer have influenced prices of both materials. PS makers have limited production as a result of insufficient monomer in some cases. That controlled production, combined with a double-digit uptick in U.S./Canadian demand, enabled another 4 cents per pound in increases to take hold since August.
Differences in original prices have caused some confusion in the market, with several sources pointing to wide variation in early 2002 pricing levels as a reason for the uncertainty. Essentially, processors that were more successful in pushing PS prices down in late 2001 ended up taking more increases this year - and taking them at a faster pace - than did processors that started the year at higher price levels.
To date, PS prices have climbed an average of 12 cents per pound in 2002, reflecting a jump of 26 percent on injection molding grades of high-impact PS, according to the Plastics News resin pricing chart.
After a difficult 2001, U.S./Canadian PS sales were up almost 11 percent through July, according to the American Plastics Council in Arlington, Va. Export business had climbed 45 percent in that period, with sales to resellers and compounders jumping 26 percent. The only PS end-use segment taking a considerable hit in the first seven months of 2002 was consumer and institutional products, where sales dipped 4 percent.
In ABS, tightness and pricing pressure on styrene monomer, combined with similar pricing pressure on acrylonitrile and butadiene, have lifted prices an average of 4 cents per pound since spring, according to several industry contacts.
The 4 cents - which applies to all volume and engineering grades of ABS listed on PN's resin pricing chart - comes out of a nominated total of 11 cents, as abundant capacity somewhat has neutralized the upward pressure from feedstocks. The 4 cents represents an increase of about 6 percent on injection grades of medium-impact ABS.
Demand also has played a role, with North American ABS sales up almost 8 percent through July, according to APC. That sales boost includes more than a 13 percent uptick in sales of ABS, styrene acrylonitrile and other styrenics into the transportation market.