The North American polystyrene market's up-and-down year is continuing, with prices now up an average of 5 cents per pound since Aug. 1.
The increase was pushed through by stronger demand, which began to pick up in July after a lackluster first half. Volatility in prices for benzene - a chemical feedstock used to make PS precursor styrene monomer - also played a role in the price hike, industry sources said.
The topsy-turvy 2005 campaign saw PS prices jump 5 cents in March, only to drop 10 cents in the following months. Through June, average selling prices were down 6 percent compared with the first half of 2005, based on the Plastics News resin pricing chart.
U.S./Canadian PS sales were down more than 3 percent in the first half, according to the American Plastics Council in Arlington, Va. Sales of PS within the region were down a little less than 3 percent, while export sales tumbled more than 12 percent.
The effects of Hurricane Katrina caused Total Petrochemicals USA Inc.'s PS plant in Carville, La., to be closed for about a week in early September, but the plant now is operational, officials said. Shipments to customers were not affected, they added.
The potential impact of Hurricane Rita, which was expected to hit the Texas coast Sept. 23, on the PS market is undetermined. But market watchers said that at the very least it would further complicate rail and distribution systems already strained by Hurricane Katrina.
For individual end markets, sales of PS into food packaging were up almost 4 percent in the first half in spite of the overall market slippage. But sizable drops were reported for PS sales into consumer/institutional products (down 8 percent), building and construction (down 6 percent) and to resellers and distributors (down 10 percent).
North American sales of expandable PS also were down almost 8 percent in the first half, according to APC.
Major PS makers now are looking to increase prices an additional 5 cents per pound Oct. 1.