December US EPS increases fall short of producer goals

08 December 2010 00:33  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--December price increases for all grades of expandable polystyrene (EPS) in North America were having partial implementation because producers were undercutting competitors to retain sales volume and market share, EPS market players confirmed on Tuesday.

The average increase for sales of EPS in December remained at 3 cents/lb, ($66/tonne, €50/tonne) out of 5 cents/lb initially announced, in a climate of subdued demand.

With the December increases, US EPS prices for block material were in the range of 81-86 cents/lb DEL (delivered), as assessed by ICIS.

Producers lamented that competitive bidding among North American producers was the main cause of erosion of the December initiative, instead of pressure from offshore imports.

With higher feedstock costs, Asian beads have not been competitive in the US of late.

Demand for EPS was soft in December because there was much pre-buying in November ahead of the December hike.

Producers might be able to push the remainder of the 5 cent/lb increase in January to account for higher ethylene costs and surging benzene spot values, but it remained to be seen if all players would be on the same page when January arrives.

In addition, increased volatility in feedstock costs may produce a different set of market conditions in January, which may support or undermine price increase initiatives.

North America’s main EPS producers are BASF, NOVA Chemicals, Flint Hills Resources, Styrochem and Nexkemia, together with Idesa and Polioles in Mexico.

$1 = €0.75)

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By: George Martin
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