HOUSTON (ICIS)--North American April expandable polystyrene (EPS) prices have dropped, market participants said on Tuesday.
The April price decreases came on the heels of significant price increases in March. Producers separately raised prices in March by 12-15 cents/lb on the back of surging upstream styrene prices in February.
There is a lot of uncertainty, with some saying it is difficult to get an accurate picture of the current market.
From a cost perspective, feedstock styrene spot prices are falling, but feedstock benzene spot prices are firming.
It is too early to tell if the EPS market will see lower prices in May, sources said.
However, styrene spot prices have been dropping for the last month, and producers and buyers expect EPS prices to fall further in May as a result. Between 9 March and 7 April, ICIS-assessed styrene spot prices fell by 31% after hitting a high of 80.63 cents/lb.
Americas Styrenics (AmSty) resumed full styrene production at its 950,000 tonne/year St James plant in Louisiana, following an extended turnaround, the US-based producer announced on 5 April. One line at the plant has been down since early January, and was originally scheduled to be down for 30 days.
INEOS Styrolution began a 45-day turnaround on 1 March at its 450,000 tonne/year Texas City plant in Texas. The plant is expected to be back on line during the second half of April.
Upstream benzene prices have also dropped. April contracts were settled at an average price of $2.69/gal, which was down by 17.5% month on month.
Lower prices for Asian EPS imports are adding to the downward pressure on domestic prices. One large buyer said that Asian material was offered this week as low as 86 cents/lb.
North American EPS producers include Dart Polymers, Flint Hills Resources, Grupo Idesa, Nexkemia Petrochimie, Nova Chemicals, Plasti-Fab, StyroChem International and Styropek.