North American prices for PVC and polystyrene resins continued on a downward trajectory in October.
PVC prices fell an average of 5 cents per pound, with PS prices down 4 cents, according to market sources contacted by Plastics News.
Prices for both solid and expanded PS were down after another price drop for benzene feedstock. Market prices for benzene — used to make styrene monomer — were down 28 cents to $2.89 per gallon, a drop of almost 9 percent.
Previous benzene price drops in August and September had sent PS prices down a total of 35 cents. Even with the three recent drops, PS prices are up a net of 18 cents since February.
Lower U.S. gasoline prices in recent months have caused benzene prices to decline. Benzene is added to gas to increase its octane rating, which can improve engine performance. U.S. per-gallon gas prices are down about 25 percent since peaking near $5 in mid-June.
One market watcher said that U.S. PS makers recently have increased inventory levels by 10 million pounds in total. "That's a lot of resin available in the domestic market," the source said.
Regional PVC prices were down 5 cents in October, marking the fourth consecutive month that prices had fallen by that amount. Prices now are down a net of 19 cents since Jan. 1.
Construction activity is a main driver of PVC consumption. U.S. housing starts in September actually were up more than 1 percent vs. August, but were down more than 7 percent vs. July and more than 3 percent vs. September 2021. As a result, the PVC market is being affected by both higher inventories and lower seasonal demand.