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 Q2 2018
Supply in the region expected to remain more of less stable while a plant in south Korea shuts for a short turnaround. A plant in southeast Asia is set to restart in April after being shut for the entire first quarter. No major factors influencing supply seen so far for the second quarter. Stocks along the supply Chain should be normal with no crunch expected so far.
Weak demand from the first quarter expected to carry through the second quarter, at least for the first part. Towards the middle of the year, some pick up in demand is expected as users prepare for the third quarter manufacturing for exports season.
European players do not appear stressed about availability in the second quarter. Meanwhile, offers of imported material, even if they are not regular, are some sort of safety net and support supply further.
The expected correction of feedstock pricing at the start of April has raised high hopes for a real restart of PS demand following a quarter that was quite poor in terms of offtake. Low stocks over the past months due to high prices will most likely mean that customers will have to fill up their inventories at some point in the second quarter.
Supply will be under pressure in Brazil, where PS producer Unigel will have a 30-day turnaround in its manufacturing complex of Bahia. The procedure was postponed once and will now start in May 2018. Provision of styrene for producer Videolar-Innova is always dependent of US Gulf styrene imports, and this supply has been shown to be erratic when styrene monomer (SM) is short in the US Gulf. This has happened this year and the year before. America’s Styrenics in Colombia also relies on US Gulf production of styrene to get its PS feedstock. Supply will be normal in Argentina and may go up a little in Mexico, where debottlenecking procedures are currently ongoing for one producer.
Latin America’s PS demand is expected to be normal in the second quarter of the year. On one side, there are uncertainties coming from presidential elections in Brazil and Mexico and ongoing turmoil in Peru. Argentina will face labour agreements in the second quarter but demand may not be affected by the negotiations. PS demand has been steady and growing at a slow pace for several years, in a market considered mature. Market participants do not expect changes in demand unless the gap with polypropylene (PP) prices grows too much, allowing substitution of materials.
Tighter spot PS supply is expected on the back of a scheduled maintenance shutdown of a key feedstock styrene monomer (SM) plant in the Middle East.
Buyers in the Middle East may have to procure more cargoes from Asia during this period.
An Asian plant’s planned turnaround for several weeks is not expected to have any impact on the supply to the Middle East/South Asia.
In anticipation of the upcoming Ramadan in mid-May, downstream demand, especially for food packaging, is likely to increase.
However, with volatile feedstock styrene monomer (SM) values, market players may choose to wait on the sidelines observing the market before making any decisions.
As a result, demand is expected to be mixed until there is further clarity in the upstream market.
There are no issues with supply at the start of the second quarter. Mexico is by far the largest PS supplier to the US market. Brazil jumped to the second-largest supplier of PS to the US market in 2017, but it is unclear if that will continue in 2018. PS in North American is produced in eight locations in the US, and three locations in Mexico.
The second quarter is typically one of the highest demand quarters for PS, given that it is peak season in the downstream EPS market. The lion’s share of PS demand in the second quarter will continue to be met by the food packaging and food service industry, which comprised 65% of total North American PS sales/captive use during the first two months for 2018.
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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.