North American prices for PVC and polystyrene resins have moved in different directions since May 1, with PVC prices dropping while those for PS were on the rise.
Regional PVC prices were down an average of 2 cents in May after being flat for two consecutive months. Prices had been up a total of 2 cents in the first two months of the year, so the May drop means that prices for the material are flat so far in 2023.
PVC demand remained soft in May, even as producers Formosa Plastics Corp. USA and Westlake Corp. struggled with production issues, according to market sources contacted by Plastics News.
Residential construction in the U.S. has slowed as interest rates increased. That's affected PVC demand, since the construction market accounts for more than half of PVC demand through pipe, siding and other products.
U.S. housing starts for April came in at an annualized rate of 1.42 million. That number was roughly flat vs. March but down 21 percent vs. the same month in 2022.
Regional PS prices continued to yo-yo in May, gaining 2 cents after dropping 2 cents in April. The May increase was connected to higher prices for benzene feedstock, according to market sources contacted by Plastics News.
Market prices for benzene — which is used to make styrene monomer — were up 31 cents to $3.91 per gallon in May. That represents an increase of almost 9 percent. North American benzene prices now are up a total of 84 cents so far in 2023.
In the global PS market, Trinseo has restarted the sales process for its styrenics business, changing strategy to include marketing individual assets and regional businesses included in that unit. During 2022, Wayne, Pa.-based Trinseo attempted to sell its styrenics business, but ended those efforts in July because of unfavorable economic conditions.
According to recent 2022 market data from the American Chemistry Council, North American PVC sales were up 3.3 percent for the year, with production of the material up 2 percent. Sales of PS were down 5.4 percent in 2022, according to ACC, with expanded PS sales down 1.5 percent. On the production side, PS was down 4.6 percent and EPS down 2.4 percent.