SHANGHAI, Jan 11 (SMM) - The silicon metal prices kept dropping in December, especially high-grade silicon metals. Specifically speaking, the 5-series silicon metal prices declined opening December, and kept falling after rising slightly sometime in the middle of the month. The prices of other silicon metals declined as a whole. As of January 10, the prices of 553# silicon with oxygen in east China was around 19,600 yuan/mt, down 4,650 yuan/mt or 19% from the beginning of December; the prices of 441# silicon metal stood around 20,825 yuan/mt, down 6,325 yuan/mt or 23% from the beginning of December. The prices of 421# silicon fell the most significantly during this period. As of the same day, the prices of 421# silicon (Ti < 500ppm) in east China stood between 21,800-22,000 yuan/mt, down 10,100 yuan/mt or over 31% from the beginning of December. The lack of confidence in the market outlook of silicon traders, due to factors such as abundant silicon metal stocks and low restocking demand in the downstream, is the main reason for the overall weakening of silicon prices.
On the supply side, the domestic average operating rate of silicon metal manufacturers dropped 5 percentage points in December from a month ago, which is expected to fall again by 7 percentage points in January. The production of silicon metal manufacturers in Sichuan was suspended in December amid multiple factors, including the hydropower supply shortage, excessively long production cycle, falling output, and surging costs. The manufacturers in Yingjiang, Yunnan mostly suspended or cut their production by end of December. As such, the total supply in Yunnan in January is expected to fall significantly.
On the demand side, the operating rates of aluminium alloy manufacturers rose slightly in December from a month ago, and those in January are expected to drop due to the Chinese New Year holiday factor. The aluminium alloy manufacturers largely purchased on rigid demand in December for two reasons. First, the prices of metallurgical-grade silicon continued to fall slowly. Most of the clients were less interest in purchasing in large amount after they found that the prices dropped further whenever they closed the latest buy. Meanwhile, the sufficient spot supply has made it easy to purchase at any time. Hence most aluminium alloy companies postponed their deadlines of restocking until around January 10.
The operating rates of silicone rose moderately in January. A few silicone monomer manufacturers completed their maintenance by end of December, and the output of DMC improved, which allowed higher operating rates. Most silicone monomer manufacturers have closed their last bid invitation ahead of CNY. The prices of 421# silicon were basically around 22,000 yuan/mt in January. The operating production capacity of polysilicon enterprises increased MoM due to the commissioning of new production capacities. Enterprises with insufficient silicon inventory are planning to initiate bid invitation in January.
The restocking demand ahead of the CNY was weaker than in previous years amid sufficient market supply and pessimistic outlook on silicon metal prices among traders and downstream manufacturers, which will be unable to pull up silicon metal prices palpably in January. The trucks services will be suspended around January 20, when the market transaction volume will be greatly reduced. The silicon metal prices are likely to show a downward trend in January, coupled with the spreading COVID-19 pandemic in places like Tianjin.