Westlake Chemicals managed to post a fourth-quarter profit even as tension builds up in the Middle East after Iran declined to enter a global nuclear-fuel agreement. The Middle East situation not only gives Westlake and other U.S.-based ethylene manufacturers an advantage over Asian and European rivals, which use naphtha as feedstock, but also delays the near-term competitive threat posed by the Middle East, where natural gas costs less than in the U.S.

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