North American prices for polypropylene resin slipped a little in July, while regional prices for solid polystyrene bounded up.
The PP drop amounted to 1 cent per pound, although some buyers reported a 1.5 cent decline. Conversely, PS prices were up 6 cents per pound for the month.
Regional ABS prices also fell an average of 6 cents per pound in the first half of the year. All of these changes are being shown on this week's Plastics News resin pricing chart.
PP prices continue to meander their way through 2014. The 1-cent July drop followed a 1-cent June hike, which in turn had followed a 1-cent May drop. Even with these mini-moves, regional PP prices are down a net of 15 cents per pound so far in 2015, mainly from a 10-cent drop that hit the market in January.
In the first half of 2015, North American PP sales were up 6.3 percent, according to the American Chemistry Council. A domestic sales gain of almost 7 percent was tempered by a drop of almost 6 percent in export sales.
July also saw the PP market receive confirmation that Formosa Plastics Corp. USA will build a new PP production line at its site in Point Comfort, Texas. That line is expected to use new propylene monomer feedstock produced by Formosa and others using propane dehydrogenation (PDH) technology.
The PS market continued a turbulent 2015, as prices jumped 6 cents per pound in July only a month after falling 5 cents. That 5-cent June decline had come after a combined 8-cent increase in April through May. Even with the 6-cent July hike, regional PS prices remain down a net of 2 cents per pound in 2015.
The 6-cent hike also looks to be short-lived, as the region's three major PS makers already have announced price decreases for August. Total Petrochemicals has announced a 3-cent decrease, while Americas Styrenics and Styrolution each have announced increases of only 2 cents.
Market sources were uncertain if the latter two firms would match the Total move. It's the second time this year that Americas Styrenics — based in The Woodlands, Texas — has made the rare move of officially announcing a price drop, as opposed to letting the market play itself out during the month. The firm previously announced a 9-cent decrease for Jan. 1.
The July hike was tied in to an 80-cent per-gallon surge in price for benzene feedstock. That 35 percent increase lifted benzene prices to $3.05 per gallon. Prices for the material for August are expected to be down about 8 percent to $2.80.
North American PS sales were up 0.4 percent in the first half of 2015, according to ACC. Sales of PS into its leading food packaging/food service end market were up 3 percent for the half, while sales of the material to resellers and distributors grew 9 percent.
The 6-cent downward correction on ABS represents a drop of about 5 percent for selling prices in the first half of 2015. Although demand for the material has improved in recent years as the U.S. auto market has recovered, sources said that lower raw material costs have resulted in lower selling prices for the resin.