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Spot titanium market flat; price floor in sight

Keywords: Tags  titanium, titanium ingot, 6 aluminum/4 vanadium, titanium prices, Boeing, 787 Dreamliner, Frank Haflich

LOS ANGELES — Titanium spot prices have remained flat this year, and some market sources are now wondering if the bottom is near.

"Prices are holding up at a low level, but our quoting activity is low and lead times are way in," one distributor said, noting that overall, spot prices have been flat or gradually eroding since early 2012. "If we’re not at the bottom, then we have to be close."

Spot prices for benchmark 6 aluminum/4 vanadium standard aerospace ingot remain stuck at $10 to $10.25 per pound, with little to suggest an imminent shift in either direction.

Demand for titanium scrap remains "in the doldrums," market sources said, with expected dealer buying prices for 6/4 bulk weldables estimated at $2 to $2.50 per pound, and only if a dealer who’s actually in the market to buy material can be found.

Despite battery problems that have grounded Chicago-based Boeing Co.’s 787 Dreamliner—the aircraft program that’s the largest consumer of titanium—suppliers haven’t been asked to slow down raw materials and component deliveries, market sources said.

"I think we could be at the bottom," a mill source said, citing some increase in demand for non-aerospace industrial titanium.

Sources in the industrial market, however, described business as spotty, with mining-related demand among the leading sectors.

Moreover, any indication that Dreamliners will remain in their hangars for an extended period of time, causing Boeing to issue a slowdown order, could help suppress prices. And others say that judging by the low point of past market cycles, there’s still another 15 to 20 percent that might be wrung out of spot prices.

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