Price direction uncertain in North American EPS market

27 March 2012 22:33  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Price direction in the North American expandable polystyrene (EPS) market is uncertain, with at least one producer saying it has implemented some of a proposed 3 cent/lb ($66/tonne, €50/tonne) increase, and other suppliers pushing the increase to April or even May, sources said on Tuesday.

In the US, producers had initially nominated increases of 3 cents/lb and 4 cents/lb for the mid-February, early-March time frame. However, those nominations were later pushed to mid-March.

By the middle of this month, one producer said it had implemented the increase, with some customers seeing the full increase and other customers seeing only a partial increase.

"We have changed pricing, and actually lost some business because of it," the producer said. "We have been trying to lead the market."

However, other suppliers said recent weakness in feedstocks benzene and styrene as well as increased competition from Asia caused them to push the increase back to April, and in one case, possibly May.

"The price increase seems to be elusive at this point," said one producer.

One buyer said the situation was unusual because typically producers meet each others' competitive offers.

"It's a pretty bold move to go on your own like that," the buyer said, adding that it expected more clarity in pricing in April.

In Mexico the situation was equally uncertain with a major producer saying it had implemented a 3 cent/lb increase in mid-March, but other market participants saying they have not seen any increase.

US EPS prices for March were assessed by ICIS at 93-97 cents/lb for package material and 95-99 cents/lb for block material.

Mexico EPS prices for March were assessed at 108-112 cents/lb for package and 112-116 cents/lb for block material.

Major North American EPS producers are BASF, NOVA Chemicals, Flint Hills Resources, Styrochem, Nexkemia, Idesa and Polioles.

($1 = €0.75)

By: Michelle Klump
+1 713 525 2653

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