Producers see destocking, stable order rates setting stage for an upturn

Jan 01, 2010 | 09:51 AM | Frank Haflich

Will 2010 be the year that titanium stages a comeback? The jury is still out, but there's little argument that commercial aerospace will play the key role.

If a sharp rebound isn't in the works for 2010, the industry is at least looking for the stage to be set for what it hopes might be a solid upturn the following year after a downturn that hasn't been as disruptive as past slumps.

While industrial and other non-aerospace markets typically account for about half of global titanium demand, it's a far different story in the United States. More than 70 percent of the more than 14,400 tonnes (31.75 million pounds) of titanium mill products shipped in the United States in the first half of 2009—down 5.5 percent from 15,240 tonnes (33.6 million pounds) in the same period a year earlier—went to aerospace, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, with the majority for commercial transports.

From a mill perspective, 2010 is likely to continue as "a challenging year" for producers, according to William A. Pallante, senior vice president of commercial at Pittsburgh-based RTI International Metals Inc.

Taken together, the amount of titanium mill products shipped by the nation's three major producers—RTI, Allegheny Technologies Inc. (ATI), also based in Pittsburgh, and Dallas-based Titanium Metals Inc. (Timet)—dropped to 35 million pounds in the first nine months of 2009, down 26 percent from 46.7 million pounds a year earlier. (ATI's figures include shipments from its High Performance Metals group, which accounts for most of its aerospace titanium.)....

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