Stronger demand and feedstock issues have led to North American price increases for ABS and polycarbonate since April 1.
ABS prices have jumped an average of 6 cents per pound in that span, with PC prices up an average of 8 cents per pound, according to buyers and market watchers contacted recently by Plastics News. Combined with earlier price increases, ABS now is up 24 cents per pound in North America during 2010, with PC prices up an average of 16 cents.
The total increases amount to hikes of about 26 percent on high-impact grades of ABS for injection molding, and 10 percent on general-purpose grades of PC for injection molding, according to the PN resin pricing chart.
ABS has been buffeted by supply constraints on acrylonitrile and butadiene resin, though supplies of butadiene have improved recently. ABS makers BASF Corp. and Ineos ABS USA Corp. two of North America's primary ABS suppliers had declared force majeure earlier in the year.
Export opportunities and increased demand from the automotive sector also have helped North American ABS demand so far in 2010, sources said. Demand from the region had been in steady decline in recent years and was believed to have been less than 1 billion pounds in 2009. New growth could push that total back to the 1 billion-pound mark.
Globally, ABS growth remains much stronger than it is in North America. Global growth for the material is expected to be at least 10 percent and possibly as high as 15 percent this year.
Regional suppliers are asking for additional price increases of 3-7 cents per pound for June, but sources said those increases don't appear to be solid.
In PC, the latest 8-cent hike stems from supply issues around benzene and propylene feedstock, but several market watchers said prices for PC may be approaching their peak for the year.
Prices for benzene which also affects ABS markets hit $3.50 per gallon in May, and have bounced around in a range between $2.70 and $3.70 per gallon since mid-2009. By comparison, that material never topped $1.50 per gallon between late 2008 and early 2009.
The expected market peak for PC and ABS also might be linked to benzene, which should see prices of less than $3 per gallon in June, according to industry sources.
Stronger automotive demand also has helped PC this year, although the market for compact discs once a big consumer of PC remains soft as CDs have been replaced by newer technologies.
Globally, PC demand growth is on track to exceed 10 percent in 2010. The market's supply/demand balance will be affected by a major new plant being built in Saudi Arabia by Saudi Kayan Petrochemical Co. That plant, with annual capacity of 600 million pounds, should be producing material by the end of 2012.
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