A surge in benzene feedstock prices sent North American selling prices for solid polystyrene resin up an average of 5 cents per pound in April.
Benzene settled at $2.16 per gallon for April, a 22 percent jump from March prices. The bounce was anticipated because of recent higher oil prices, according to Mark Kallman, a market analyst with Resin Technology Inc. in Fort Worth, Texas. Prior to the April increase, benzene prices had been at a multi-year low because of strong first-quarter imports of the material into North America, he added.
Solid PS prices had been flat in March after declining by an average of 2 cents per pound in February. Prior to the February drop, regional PS prices had been flat for four consecutive months.
Looking ahead, regional benzene prices are expected to settle near $2.07 per gallon for May, down 4 percent vs. April. A PS buyer in the Midwest told Plastics News that the benzene drop might not be enough to move PS prices, which he said have a good chance to be flat for May.
North American PS sales grew just under 1 percent in the first quarter of 2016, according to the American Chemistry Council in Washington. Sales of the material into the food service/food packaging end market grew 2.2 percent in that period. Food service/food packaging accounted for almost 65 percent of regional sales of solid PS for the quarter.