28 September 2012 16:20 [Source: ICIS news]
By Larry Terry
HOUSTON (ICIS)--Downward price pressure on the North American titanium dioxide (TiO2) market will soon take its toll for the second time during the third quarter, sources said.
The second round of TiO2 decreases for the third quarter appears to be averaging about 5 cents/lb ($110/tonne, €85/tonne) and would bring prices down by a total of 10-13 cents/lb.
However, some buyers have reported prices as much as 7 cents/lb lower.
And near-term weakness is not likely to end there, they said.
“I don’t think the latest price cuts will impact inventories much,” a buyer said. “Demand is weak, but they will want to keep their plants running at some reduced rate rather than shut them down.”
Although one producer said demand has stabilised – and some buyers do not argue with that assessment – inventories are still excessive, and the market is entering what is typically its weakest time of the year.
Buyers still suggest there is more price weakness to come in the fourth quarter.
Current domestic prices for TiO2 are $1.95-2.04/lb, as assessed by ICIS.
Price weakness earlier in the quarter eventually averaged 5-8 cents/lb after arriving in fits and starts in the first few weeks of the period.
Sources attributed that initial lack of price consensus to instability and confusion linked to high inventories and deeper price cuts for imported material, which is lower quality and produced via the sulphate process.
Most North American TiO2 producers employ the chloride route, which uses chlorine to extract pigment from ilmenite, rutile or titanium slag. Most European and Asian production is based on a process that employs sulphuric acid.
Many sources expect the first half of 2013 will be the first potential upturn in TiO2 pricing since it began to soften early this year.
North American TiO2 producers include DuPont, Cristal, Tronox, Kronos and Huntsman.
($1 = €0.77)
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