A drop in price for benzene feedstock led North American prices for solid polystyrene to dip an average of 2 cents per pound in July.
Regional PS prices had been flat in June after climbing 2 cents per pound in May. The July move was tied into a decline of almost 9 percent that hit the benzene market between May and July. Benzene prices fell from $4.47 per gallon to $4.07 in that two-month period.
But benzene prices already were trending upward again as of mid-August, with spot prices between $4.30 and $4.40 per gallon. This turnaround is leading some market watchers to speculate that PS prices could see a substantial increase in August or September.
Regional solid PS prices now are down 4 percent so far in 2013, based on prices for injection molding grades of high-impact PS as shown on the Plastics News resin pricing chart. That decrease includes a 5-cent decline that occurred in early 2013.
North American sales of solid PS into electrical/electronic applications were up 12 percent in the first four months of 2013, according to the American Chemistry Council in Washington. But overall solid PS sales essentially were flat in the same comparison.
Food packaging/food service was the largest single end use for solid PS in that four-month period with a market share of almost 58 percent, according to ACC. Sales in that segment were up 1.5 percent in the period.
The major PS news event for the summer of 2013 has been Styron LLC's sales of its expandable PS business to resin distributor and compounder Ravago SA. The sale includes an EPS plant in Schkopau, Germany, as well as the Sconapor brand name.
Berwyn, Pa.-based Styron is a major producer of styrenic resins and latex and rubber products. In North America, Styron owns 50 percent of Americas Styrenics LLC, the region's largest PS maker. Styron employs 2,100 worldwide and has annual sales of around $5.5 billion.