PVinsights: Solar market seesawed as China fragile recovery rattled market

Polysilicon prices hold steady this week as the attempts of price hike has deterred buyers¡¦ appetite. With wafer prices under pressured, the previous weekly price hike seems irrational for the major polysilicon buyers as to retain their margins, especially for multi-crystalline wafer makers. Although the mono-crystalline wafer makers, who were still in the phase of aggressive capacity expansion, had kept the procurement at a solid pace, the multi-crystalline wafer makers that suffered with weaker-than-then expected demand recovery tended to halt their procurement as the expensive polysilicon curbs appetite. Some 2nd tier Chinese polysilicon suppliers increasingly felt the pressure to likely offer price reduction in the coming weeks to align with the price downtrend of multi-crystalline wafer.


Polysilicon prices hold steady this week as the attempts of price hike has deterred buyers¡¦ appetite. With wafer prices under pressured, the previous weekly price hike seems irrational for the major polysilicon buyers as to retain their margins, especially for multi-crystalline wafer makers. Although the mono-crystalline wafer makers, who were still in the phase of aggressive capacity expansion, had kept the procurement at a solid pace, the multi-crystalline wafer makers that suffered with weaker-than-then expected demand recovery tended to halt their procurement as the expensive polysilicon curbs appetite. Some 2nd tier Chinese polysilicon suppliers increasingly felt the pressure to likely offer price reduction in the coming weeks to align with the price downtrend of multi-crystalline wafer. Therefore, the overall polysilicon price was hard to go any further with remaining downstream price pressure, and the pressures for polysilicon suppliers have continued to build as most buyers were reluctant to accept the price hike.

Multi-crystalline wafer prices continued to fall as lingering worries about sluggish demand dampening buyers' procurement appetite, but the scope of price drop was limited as restrained by increased polysilicon cost. Concerns of fragile recovery in China, the world's biggest solar market, and uncertainty over the supply and demand balance of solar wafer market have resulted in volatile yet range-bound recent trading. Although China demand seemed restored a bit in April, the mild improvement only had limited impact on the downtrend of multi-crystalline wafer prices with weaker-than-expected recovery. Moreover, as the market supplies remained abundant, inevitable price competition had drove multi-crystalline wafer continue to drop, although the scope was limited by the steady polysilicon cost. Mono-crystalline wafer prices held steady this week. The demand for mono-crystalline products has also improved slightly, but the momentum was strong enough to hold the prices. However, with high polysilicon cost, particularly for the high-purity one, mono-crystalline wafer makers tended to hold the prices immobile since there was no room for them to hike the prices.

Both Multi-crystalline and mono-crystalline cell prices stayed immobile this week. Although the price hike for high efficiency multi-crystalline cells above had limited success due to limited supply, soaring low efficiency inventories, which had jumped since major cell buyers raised their efficiency requirements to above 18.6%, is threatening to undermine solar cell maker's efforts to prop up the average prices. Therefore, the average selling price for multi-crystalline cells was stabilized as the price hike in high-efficiency solar cells was offset by the drop of mid-low ones. Moreover, despite the high-efficiency demand recovery, major solar cell buyers warned that the recovery has been weaker than anticipated, and further price gain in solar cells would threaten to cut buyers' procurement since module price weakness does not grant much room for solar cell prices to hike. Similarly, mono-crystalline cell prices held steady temporally with slightly demand rebound and stable mono-crystalline wafer cost, yet the demand recovery was so fragile that did not reflect any improvement in mono-crystalline cell pricing.

Given that global demand strength in 2Q18 were weaker than previous expected, solar panel suppliers continued to suffer from intensified competition, and such price rout spread from China to other overseas countries. Despite a tender recovery of China demand, solar module market still faced an abundance of supplies that put pressures on producers to keep their prices competitive in order not to lose market share. The major burden for solar panel makers was the low-efficiency modules, which mounting inventory pressure continued to stir the price war among Chinese suppliers. Moreover, some 2nd tier Chinese solar module makers also expanded their footprint to emerging countries in order to selloff low-efficiency module inventories, driving down the regional module prices. In India and Japan, panel prices continued to head downwards as both countries stepped into the traditional slow season. Meanwhile, solar panel prices in EU dropped slightly amid price competition led by Chinese module makers. In the US, major Chinese solar panel makers slashed prices to clear inventories building in 4Q17. Furthermore, as 2nd tier Chinese module makers were tried to gain more market shares, surprising low prices for mono-crystalline module prices were also witnessed as to win the orders, driving mono-crystalline module prices down

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