Expandable polystyrene Prices, markets & analysis
For those looking to keep abreast of the global Expandable polystyrene market, our independent, unbiased pricing information, news and market analysis is an invaluable resource.
Whether you buy or sell Expandable polystyrene or related products, you need to know about the prices and the factors driving the prices in the global Expandable polystyrene market as they happen. Our network of price reporters throughout Asia, Europe and the US provide key local insights. We collate this intelligence into daily and weekly price reports, ensuring you have the up-to-date information you need at all times.
Expandable polystyrene Overview
EPS is a rigid cellular form of polystyrene, possessing properties that make it ideal as a packaging mechanism and also in insulation.
The key drivers in the market at in Europe are the upstream cost of feedstock, which is styrene monomer and the level of business in the construction industry downstream.
Each month, the monthly styrene barge contract is the kicking off point for discussions between EPS producers and their customers.
Because the EPS industry is related to the construction sector, it can be very seasonal and that seasonality can be accentuated by long, severe winters which dampen down demand quite considerably. However, the market is a resilient one and prices and consumption can pick up quite strongly.
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Upstream of Expandable polystyrene
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Expandable polystyrene: Market overview
European expandable polystyrene (EPS) prices are expected to rise in January due to higher feedstock costs. A price increase is also expected to be supported by improved demand on the back of re-stocking activity after the December lull. Furthermore, sellers did not pass on higher feedstock styrene costs in December and they expect this margin erosion will bolster their argument for higher January prices. Feedstock styrene monomer settled €35/tonne higher in January. Nevertheless, market players warn that EPS offtake in the first quarter of 2014 will be directed by weather, to an extent, as the construction sector is a key downstream market. Furthermore, sources indicated that a volatile styrene monomer price in 2013, which culminated in higher feedstock costs over the past three months, has severely squeezed EPS margins and made product substitution more attractive in some cases.
In the US, EPS prices are expected to rise in January, as pricing for feedstocks benzene and styrene make what is becoming an annual first-quarter climb. Benzene contract prices for January rose by 35.5 cents/gal, which is helping to support a 4 cent/lb price hike announced by producers. Buyers have said they fully expect the January price hike to be implemented, but said they hope to avoid further price hikes in February, as benzene supply is expected to improve. The price expectations are following a similar pattern to 2013, when benzene prices hit a peak in January and held steady for February before beginning a slow descent in March. Demand tends to be fairly weak in the EPS market in January, when the key construction sector is slow because of cold weather. Demand in the packaging sector does not typically pick up until a little later in the first quarter, sources said.
The Chinese EPS sector is expected to remain in the doldrums in the first quarter. The cold weather in eastern and northern China will curb construction activities and reduce demand for EPS used in insulation panels. The export-of-finished-goods season will not start until the third quarter, hence demand of EPS from the packaging sector is unlikely to pick up strongly into the second quarter. EPS makers continued to struggle with elevated feedstock styrene monomer (SM) prices as weak demand has squeezed margins of EPS. The short shelf life of EPS resins also added pressure to EPS producers to move resins quickly, often by reducing prices. The average operating rates of EPS plants in China has declined to below 35% in January as producers cut output in the face of flagging demand.
Updated to mid-Jan 2014
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Expandable polystyrene news & analysis
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Expandable Polystyrene Methodology
About Expandable polystyrene
Expandable polystyrene (EPS) is a rigid cellular form of polystyrene (PS) with good thermal insulation and shock absorbing properties, high compressive strength, low weight and resistance to moisture.
Building and construction applications are the largest outlet for EPS. Large quantities are used to make insulation foam for closed cavity walls, roofs and floor insulation. EPS foam also finds uses in road construction, bridges, drainage, flotation and sound insulation.
The other main application of EPS is in packaging. Food items such as eggs, meat, fish and poultry can be packed with EPS. The good shock absorbency of EPS makes is suitable for the packaging of delicate electronic goods.
Other uses for EPS include providing protection in crash helmets and as decoration in design work.
Upstream of Expandable polystyrene
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