PVinsights: Solar market stumbles as buyers turn cautious

The Polysilicon held steady this Wednesday as more buyers halted to pile stocks in recent month in a week of tremendous downward swings felt in downstream market in China. With depressed wafer prices, buyer's efforts to reduce losses have restrained polysilicon price gains, signaling tighter margins and tougher operating conditions for solar wafer firms as polysilicon costs remained high. Although the mono-crystalline wafer makers kept procurement at a solid pace due to aggressive capacity expansion, expensive high-purity polysilicon prices have eroded their profit margin, reluctantly refusing to take further price hike. As for the conventional polysilicon that majorly used for multi-crystalline wafer production, the price pressure was even greater given that sliding multi-crystalline wafer prices and weaker-than-anticipated demand has deterred buyers' interest on procurement. In fact, more 2nd tier and 3rd tier polysilicon suppliers have increasing pressured by dimmed order visibility. Moreover, the recovery of polysilicon production also started to be a major concerns for polysilicon suppliers as the price might be unsustainable soon.


The Polysilicon held steady this Wednesday as more buyers halted to pile stocks in recent month in a week of tremendous downward swings felt in downstream market in China. With depressed wafer prices, buyer's efforts to reduce losses have restrained polysilicon price gains, signaling tighter margins and tougher operating conditions for solar wafer firms as polysilicon costs remained high. Although the mono-crystalline wafer makers kept procurement at a solid pace due to aggressive capacity expansion, expensive high-purity polysilicon prices have eroded their profit margin, reluctantly refusing to take further price hike. As for the conventional polysilicon that majorly used for multi-crystalline wafer production, the price pressure was even greater given that sliding multi-crystalline wafer prices and weaker-than-anticipated demand has deterred buyers' interest on procurement. In fact, more 2nd tier and 3rd tier polysilicon suppliers have increasing pressured by dimmed order visibility. Moreover, the recovery of polysilicon production also started to be a major concerns for polysilicon suppliers as the price might be unsustainable soon.

The lasted round of supply chain surveys had also shown multi crystalline wafer businesses suffering from weaker demand recovery in months, mono-crystalline wafer capacity expansion intact and a growing concerns for the wafer sector. Multi-crystalline wafer prices damped by lingering worries about sluggish demand. Concerns of fragile recovery in China, the world's biggest solar market, and uncertainty over the supply and demand balance of solar wafer market has resulted in downward trend yet range-bound trading. Although China demand restored a bit in April, the mild improvement did not overturn the price downtrend with weaker-than-expected recovery. Moreover, since multi-crystalline wafer makers have mostly normalized utilization rates since 2Q18, the abundant market supplies continued to stir an inevitable price competition, with some industrial specialists pointing to bin-busting stockpiles even for the top tier multi-crystalline wafer suppliers. On the other hand, mono crystalline wafer market remained steady as the demand for mono-crystalline wafer was comparatively heathier than multi-ones since the downstream solar cell makers continued to ramp up their mono PERC capacity.

Both Multi-crystalline and mono-crystalline cell prices stayed immobile this week. The increased appetite for higher grade multi cell efficiency has strengthen the market share of solar cell suppliers in China, forcing non-China suppliers of lower grade multi cells to offer steeper discounts to draw Indian buyers. Although the demand has seen signs of stabilization, weakness in low-efficiency solar cell prices is of particular concern, with domestic demand hardly looking robust enough to balance supply growth as Chinese cell suppliers continued to expand production capacity. The demand recovery has also proved so fragile that unable to keep most solar cell makers to maximize their utilization rates. Most importantly, as the downstream module prices continued to renew the lows, the underlying pressure for multi-crystalline cell prices remained substantial. On the other hand, mono-crystalline cell prices stabilized with mild recovery in demand and plateaued upstream mono-crystalline wafer costs.

Due to weaker-than-expected global demand in 2Q18, solar panel suppliers continued to suffer from intensified competition, and such price rout has spread from China to other overseas countries. Despite a tender recovery of China demand, solar module market still encountered 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 stirring 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 head downwards as both countries have stepped into the traditional slow season. Meanwhile, solar panel prices in EU dropped slightly amid price competition lead by Chinese module makers. In the US, solar panel prices lowered as major Chinese solar panel makers cut prices to clear stockpiles. Furthermore, as 2nd tier Chinese module makers were trying to gain more market shares, surprising low prices for mono-crystalline module prices continued to be witnessed as to win the orders, driving high-efficiency PERC module prices notably.

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