An increase in the number of producers and more foreign competition have driven average North American selling prices for thermoplastic elastomers down since early 2002.
During that period, average selling prices for copolyester and styrenic block copolymer TPEs have dropped an average of 10 percent, while prices for olefinic TPEs - including thermoplastic polyolefins, vulcanizates and polyurethanes - have dipped 20 percent, according to several buyers and industry sources contacted recently.
The changes are reflected in this week's Plastics News resin pricing chart.
New price listings for large-volume copolyester are $1.92-$2.50 per pound. Similar totals for TPO, TPV and TPU are 68 cents to $1.02 per pound, while SBCs are 77 cents to $1.17 per pound.
``There are a lot more [TPE] producers and compounders entering the market, and that's led to price reduction,'' said Faisal Syed, a market analyst with Chemical Market Resources Inc. in Houston. ``In general, there's been more competition and a better balance between supply and demand in the market.''
In the case of TPVs, expired patents have led more producers to make those products in recent years, Syed added.
Each of the five TPE subsets has achieved solid growth this year, although growth rates are lower than they were in the 1990s because of intermaterial competition and market maturity. According to CMRI, North American consumption and growth rates for 2003 should be:
* Reactor and blended TPOs, up 6.5 percent to 440 million pounds.
* TPVs, up 5.5 percent to 120 million pounds.
* SBCs, up 4.5 percent to 680 million pounds.
* TPUs, up 3.5 percent to 115 million pounds.
* Copolyesters, up 3.5 percent to 65 million pounds.