There's plenty of solid polystyrene and PET bottle resin to go around in North America. And as a result, average selling prices for both resins have dropped in recent months.
Demand for the materials also has been somewhat soft, with PET particularly affected by lower-than-expected demand from the Chinese market. Demand from that region has not picked up as much as anticipated after the Chinese New Year, resulting in a dampening of the global PET market, industry sources said.
PS demand through the first four months of 2005 dropped by about 2 percent compared with the same period last year, according to the American Plastics Council in Arlington, Va. Lower prices for benzene feedstock - now under $3 per gallon after being above $4 earlier in the year - also have placed downward pressure on prices.
After winning a 5 cent-per-pound price increase in March, PS makers have seen prices drop 3 cents in March, 3 cents in April and 4 cents in June, according to a number of buyers contacted recently. The net loss of 5 cents in the first half of the year equates to a drop of about 6 percent on injection molding grades of high-impact PS, according to the Plastics News resin pricing chart.
In the first quarter of 2005, the North American PS market saw sizable volume losses in the consumer/institutional products sector, where sales dropped about 6 percent. Export sales also dropped more than 13 percent.
At Nova Chemicals Corp., a leading PS maker based in Pittsburgh, sales volume in pounds of solid and expanded PS was down more than 4 percent in the first quarter. Nova's overall styrenics business - including styrene monomer - lost $21 million in the first quarter, even though officials said the business showed month-to-month improvement.
The PET drop was somewhat surprising, coming when many blow molders are building resin supplies in anticipation of the summer season, when demand for PET beverage bottles peaks.
Instead, the market saw prices slip 2 cents per pound in April, 3 in May and another 3 in June. Buyers reported availability of material in almost every part of North America. The price drop adds up to a downward move of about 10 percent, according to the PN chart.
Several PET buyers also reported working off inventories built during late 2004. When Chinese demand didn't return as expected - a trend some attribute to more-entrepreneurial Chinese business and less government control - more material became available on the open market.
PET market leader Eastman Chemical Co. of Kingsport, Tenn., saw its PET volume in pounds drop about 7 percent in the first quarter compared with the year-ago period. In spite of the drop, Eastman's polymers business, including PET and a smaller polyethylene business, earned $71 million in the quarter after losing $12 million a year ago.