Chinese titanium dioxide prices are expected by market participants to move higher in the short term because of firmer demand from international consumers, following output cuts by producers outside of China during the sustained Covid-19 pandemic.
Argus last assessed the range for 98pc anatase grade dioxide at 13,500-14,500 yuan/t ($2,087-2,242/t) ex-works yesterday, the highest level since 13 November 2018. Prices for 93pc rutile grade dioxide rose to Yn16,000-17,500/t ex-works yesterday from Yn15,800-16,800/t on 7 January, the highest since 16 October 2018 when Argus launched this assessment.
Major producers have lifted their domestic offer prices by Yn500-1,000/t and export offers by $80-100/t fob, after China's largest producer Lomon Billions hiked its offer prices on 8 January in response to a rise in production costs, low inventories and buoyant demand from international consumers.
Some larger producers at the end of December settled their supply contracts with international consumers for delivery in the first quarter, resulting in limited spot availability that has pushed up spot prices further. Several export firms have lifted their offers above $2,800/t fob this week because of little to no spot availability.
Most Chinese producers restarted their output in April when the country's Covid-19 outbreak eased. They have raised their output and prices since the second half of 2020 in response to increased orders from international buyers and increases in titanium concentrate and sulphuric acid feedstock costs.
Prices for 46pc grade titanium concentrate were assessed stable yesterday at Yn1,920-1,950/t ex-works with 13pc value-added tax unpaid. Prices are expected to move higher in the coming weeks in response to renewed buying interest from dioxide producers, as most of them are planning to restock concentrate feedstock for requirements around the 11-17 February lunar new year holiday.
Domestic titanium dioxide output reached 305,800t in December 2020, up by 9.88pc from 278,303t a year earlier. The country's 2020 production grew by 10.86pc to 3.47mn t from 3.13mn in 2019.
Export orders have been increasing since April following output disruptions at international producers such as Chemours, Tronox and Kronos because of the Covid-19 pandemic. International buyers have in turn raised imports from China since April because of its steady supplies.
The country's dioxide exports rose by 37.11pc from a year earlier to 112,300t in November, with shipments during January-November up by 23.27pc to 1.1mn t, customs data show.
The uptrend in the dioxide market is expected to persist in this year's first quarter. Chemours, Tronox and Kronos are likely to maintain low run rates in January-March because of the worsening pandemic outside of China.
China is expected to add 300,000-400,000/t of new capacity this year, following the launches of new projects being built by Jinmao Titanium Industry, Citic Titanium, Yibin Tianyuan, Jinhai Titanium Industry and Fujian Kuncai with expectations of higher prices and firm demand from domestic and overseas consumers.