AnalysisEU PS industry maintains healthy trade balance

20 August 2013 15:49  [Source: ICIS news]

By Peter Gerrard

LONDON (ICIS)--The EU's external trade surplus for polystyrene (PS) with the rest of the world registered a small contraction in June compared with May, according to data released this week by Eurostat.

However, the surplus of exports over imports remains massive.

In June the volume of imports, at 5,446 tonnes, was up slightly (+1%) over May, and exports also fell - to 21,747 tonnes. Comparing June 2013 with June 2012, imports were up and exports were down, although imports were lower and exports higher than in June 2011.

One month's data can reflect specific circumstances that conceal or disguise underlying facts and trends. It is therefore better to consider rather longer term data in order to minimise these aberrations.

The volume of trade between EU producers and suppliers from outside the EU was greater in the second quarter and the first half of 2013 compared with the respective periods of last year. This was due to a rise in both imports and exports, although the increment in the latter was more modest than for imports.

Taking a longer view, imports were lower in June, the second quarter, and the first half of 2013 than they were in the respective periods of 2011, while exports were up in each case.

The effect is that the EU continues to enjoy a substantial trade surplus with the rest of the world in PS. In June, the volume of exports exceeded that of imports by three to one, as it did for the first half of this year. In the second quarter, the ratio was even higher, at three and a half to one.

The recent rise in imports and decline in exports revealed by the latest Eurostat figures may have a number of explanations, which can give a mixed picture of the health of the European PS market.

The dip in exports and rise in imports might both be partly attributable to high price levels in Europe.

Another reason for higher imports could be the introduction into The European market of material from the Egyptian plant of eStyrenics, although it is not believed by market sources that this has yet had a significant impact.

Lastly, the increased flow of imports may reflect something positive about the state of the European market: it is generally agreed that consumption was depressed in the early months of this year, largely because of bad weather.

Suppliers, in particular, say that demand has recovered quite well in the summer and domestic producers are operating at or near capacity. This may be a further factor that has encouraged something of a pick-up in imports.

Eurostat import/export data are subject to revision as more detailed information becomes available.

($1 = €0.75)

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By: Peter Gerrard
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