The comprehensive and extensive coverage of Polystyrene, compiled by our team of locally-based reporters gives market players up-to-date and in-depth independent and unbiased pricing information. The weekly price assessments are covered in Asia, Middle East, CIS, Europe, the US and Latin America.
There are also margin reports and 12-month rolling series reports for Asia, Europe and the US, while the forecast report looking forward a year is for Europe only. Market news and analysis gives the reader the tools required to make essential commercial decisions. Commentary within the reports includes overviews, demand and supply, production issues, feedstock movements and any other factors influencing the market at the time of publication.
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Polystyrene: Market overview
Updated to Q4 2018
Output within the region was poised to fall with an increase in turnarounds scheduled over the quarter – a major Chinese producer will be shutting its plant for nearly two months for a planned maintenance. A narrow spread between PS and feedstock SM will likely keep operating rates low.
Although buying interest could pick up in October following China’s national holidays, particularly as buyers have low inventory levels, overall demand is expected to wane heading into the end of the year. Manufacturing activity typically slows down in the fourth quarter.
European polystyrene (PS) supply is anticipated to remain healthy through Q4 with no known turnarounds or production issues expected nor in the upstream styrene market. If demand picks up, it could pressure European producers or lead to balanced market conditions. Competitively priced offers from suppliers from other regions could also ensure availability remains ample.
European polystyrene (PS) demand is expected to improve somewhat during Q4. Upstream styrene prices are anticipated to fall and put pressure on PS costs, which could spur buying interest. Restocking activity is expected to boost demand sometime during the quarter with higher prices expected for Q1 2019.
The outlook for PS supply is steady because production has recovered in Argentina after a labour conflict stopped the plant for two and a half months. Styrene availability will continue to be a challenge in Brazil, but there are no maintenance turnarounds in the short term. There are no expansions planned.
In terms of PS demand, the southern hemisphere will be in its strong season for disposables consumption, but there are many uncertainties about the economic status of Argentina and Brazil, which had strong domestic currency devaluations with a chilling effect on overall demand. Demand could be sluggish in some countries.
Supply is expected to stay constant in Q4, at least in the Middle East and south Asia, with no expected maintenance shutdowns planned. In Asia, some plants will be shut for scheduled turnarounds. However, these are not expected to have any impact on the import markets in the Middle East and south Asia.
Demand is likely to be stable-to-soft in the last quarter of the year; which is typically the lull season for polymer trades. With the volatility of upstream Asian styrene monomer, which polystyrene is very much dependent on, buyers, especially those in the Middle East would prefer sourcing regionally because of shorter delivery time and risks.
There were no planned turnarounds or any other issues with US supply during the third quarter. Mexico was the largest PS supplier to the US market during the first seven months of 2018, accounting for 58% of total imports during that timeframe. South Korea was the second largest supplier, with 10% of the total.
PS demand was strong during the third quarter, although levels in September were lower than they were in August. Much of the demand came from the downstream expandable polystyrene market, which hits peak consumption in the summer months. PS imports in July were down by 19% year on year, but volumes from Mexico were up by 12%.
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Polystyrene Asia Margin Report Methodology
Polystyrene Europe Margin Report Methodology
Polystyrene US Margin Report Methodology
Polystyrene (PS) is a clear, crystalline resin which burns with a sooty flame. It is soluble in cyclohexane (CX), ethylbenzene (EB), ethyl acetate (etac), carbon disulphide, but insoluble in ether, acetone, phenol and saturated hydrocarbons.
Two main types of PS are produced: crystal or general purpose polystyrene (GPPS) which is a clear, amorphous resin with good stiffness and electrical properties but it is brittle; and medium and high impact polystyrene (HIPS) which contain varying levels of polybutadiene to improve toughness and impact resistance.
Polystyrene is used in a variety of consumer and commercial products with major applications in domestic appliances, construction, electronics, toys and food packaging. Included in food packaging are food and dairy containers, closures, lids, produce baskets, vending cups and fast food containers.