North American market prices for solid polystyrene and PET bottle resin are moving in different directions.
Solid PS prices in the region bumped up an average of 2 cents in September, while regional prices for PET bottle resin have slid about 5 cents per pounds since July 1, said buyers contacted recently by Plastics News. These changes are shown on this week's Plastics News resin pricing chart.
PET makers now are working to reverse that earlier slide with increases totaling as much as 13 cents per pound. These recent increases are working their way through the market and aren't yet reflected on the pricing chart.
The PS hike came as prices for benzene feedstock climbed 22 cents between August and September to close at $3.01 a gallon. October benzene prices settled at $3.07, but spot prices currently are around $3.40 and could close as high as $3.50 for November.
If that happens, North American PS prices could see an additional increase in October, according to market analyst Stacy Shelly, who is with Resin Technology Inc. in Fort Worth, Texas.
Shelly added that strong demand for styrenic products in Asia has tightened North American supplies of styrene monomer, creating another factor that could lead to higher PS prices. North American PS makers already have nominated increases of 5 cents per pound set to take effect Nov. 1.
Most recently, regional PS prices had dropped a total of 6 cents per pound in the June-July period as demand softened and feedstock prices became weak. Through July, U.S./Canadian PS sales were down 2 percent, according to the American Chemistry Council in Washington.
In PET, lower feedstock costs and excess capacity sent prices down a bit earlier than expected, buyers said. Typically, PET prices wane later in the year as temperatures cool and beverage demand declines.
Prices had risen an average of 8 cents per pound as processors stocked up on resin in anticipation of summer demand. Industry estimates for North American PET demand growth in 2010 range from 1-3 percent. That does not sound like much, but it's an improvement over the single-digit drops that the market suffered through in 2008 and 2009.
Lower feedstock costs have allowed North American PET makers to boost export levels, which has partially supplanted a weak domestic field, sources said.
Higher feedstock costs and supply shortages now are working to move PET prices upward, although the full amounts of the increases still are being contested between buyers and sellers.