FORECAST: European silicon prices expected to rise on US decision

Market participants believe that the vote in the US International Trade Commission (ITC) on Friday March 23 - against the imposition of silicon import duties on material from Australia, Brazil, Norway and Kazakhstan - will help to raise silicon prices in Europe.

But they also believed that the price rise would be subdued, because prices in China were weakening.

Metal Bulletin assessed the price of grade-553 silicon, in-warehouse Rotterdam, at €2,190-2,225 ($2,705-2,748) per tonne on March 23, in line with the previous week’s assessment. The grade-441 silicon price was similarly flat week-on-week at €2,300-2,350 per tonne.

On February 16, grade-441 silicon prices reached their highest level since October 2015, before moving downward due to the lower prices in China.

Meanwhile, Metal Bulletin assessed the Chinese grade-553 silicon export price at $1,960-2,000 per tonne on March 23. This was down from $1,980-2,030 per tonne in the previous week, with sellers lowering their offer prices to entice business from otherwise uninterested buyers.

The ITC voted on Friday last week that silicon metal imports from Australia, Brazil, Norway and Kazakhstan did not materially harm the US silicon industry. As a result, the US Department of Commerce will not issue anti-dumping or countervailing duties on silicon metal shipments into the United States.

“The EU price will probably rise a bit, due to supply reallocation toward the US,” a consumer said.

A few producers in Brazil and Norway were looking to sell material to Europe, he added. But the US decision against import duties could mean that material would again be diverted to that country. But any price rises were unlikely to be large because prices in China were falling.

“The third quarter will be the deciding point, because [material from] China should become cheaper again due to the start of the rainy season in Yunan. [This] lowers electricity costs for local producers, which makes up 30-40% of production costs,” the consumer added.

A trader in Europe believed that the ITC’s decision would lead to higher prices in Europe. “The extra material that was going to be headed into Europe will again go to the US,” he said. “But prices will now be dictated by China, [and these] are now weakening.”

Traders said that it was too early to suggest how much prices would rise, or when this would happen. “There will be a clearer picture in a week or so,” a second trader said.

The Department of Commerce issued its final determinations in trade cases against imports of silicon metal from Australia, Brazil, Norway and Kazakhstan on March 1, 2018, revising some duties upward from its preliminary rulings.

More than 70% of the silicon metal imports into the US are covered by these determinations, materials supplier Ferroglobe said.

The trade cases involving silicon imports began in March 2017, after a petition was submitted by Globe Specialty Metals, a Ferroglobe subsidiary.