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Spot silicon prices strengthen on tight supplies

Keywords: Tags  silicon prices, imports, production curtailments, automotive, port strike, Michael Cowden

CHICAGO — Spot silicon prices in the United States have strengthened in recent weeks, bolstered by tighter supplies and better demand, according to some market sources.

AMM spot silicon prices have edged up to a range of $1.23 to $1.28 per pound from $1.22 to $1.27 previously.

One supplier source told AMM that he was "a little taken aback" that some people were still referring to prices in the low $1.20s. He said his company was quoting business in the $1.30s and recently had done business at as high as $1.36 per pound, albeit for less-than-truckload quantities.

Offshore silicon supplies have been disrupted as a result of electricity issues in Brazil (, Nov. 15) and South Africa (, Dec. 13), a producer source and others noted. "With the supply-side curtailments, I don’t see how prices can do anything but go up," the producer source said.

A second supplier source said his company had recently done business for volumes of at least one truckload, or roughly 20 tonnes, at between $1.25 and $1.30 per pound. He chalked up what he characterized as a stronger market to increased automotive demand combined with reduced offshore supplies.

"Prices have definitely moved up. But the spot market is thin," the second producer source said, noting that consumers were taking advantage of contracts already negotiated at lower prices. "We see the market strengthening. But it’s not a runaway market by any stretch."

A trader said that his company also had done business at between $1.25 and $1.30 per pound, with one deal—likely not representative of the wider market—at $1.32 per pound. He characterized the spot market as "quiet" and wondered about the impact of Brazilian players coming back into the market, speculating that they may have to reduce prices in order to regain traction in the U.S. market.

Other sources said a possible labor stoppage at U.S. ports also might impact supplies.

Talks between the International Longshoremen’s Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance continue in an effort to reach a new labor agreement for 15,000 container workers before the current master contract expires Feb. 6 (, Jan. 17).

But while the majority of market participants AMM spoke to said prices were up sharply and supplies limited, some contended that supplies were not tight enough to drive prices up much, if at all.

"Suppliers are trying to convince me that prices are moving up to $1.25 to $1.28 (per pound), but I’m not going to let that happen," one consumer source said. "I can get all the silicon I want. I don’t see any tightness."

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