The price of polysilicon rose 1.2 percent since the middle of December, the biggest gain in 10 months, as production fell and demand for solar panels that use the raw material increased in the fourth quarter.
The average spot price for the material rose to $16.18 per kilogram last week from $16.03 and $15.83 a month ago, Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s latest survey shows. It was the third weekly increase following an all-time low last month. The price has dropped about 43 percent in the past year.
“The impact of reduced capacity utilization of polysilicon producers is finally having a positive impact on the spot price, which is still below production costs of most poly makers around the world,” Martin Simonek, solar analyst at the research firm, said by e-mail today. “Whether prices will continue to rise is yet to be seen. Demand in the first half of 2013 remains challenging.”
Producers led by GCL-Poly Energy Holdings Ltd. (3800) in China and OCI Ltd. (010060) of South Korea stopped expanding factories last year after a glut in the material depressed prices and gutted margins. Most manufacturers cut output, and many small Chinese makers halted production altogether.
Demand for solar panels rose strongly in the fourth quarter of 2012, making solar stocks rise. Yet this is not what has stabilized polysilicon prices, given they increase about eight weeks before demand rises, according to Simonek.
Future prices are likely to be affected by China’s preliminary ruling on an anti-dumping investigation on polysilicon from the U.S., South Korea and the European Union, which is scheduled for Feb. 20. The country’s panel and wafer makers consume most of the world’s solar-grade polysilicon.
“In theory, retroactive tariffs there should push up the material’s China price and lower the international one,” Simonek said.
The average spot silicon prices in China and internationally currently are $15.50 and $16.10 a kilogram, respectively, BNEF data shows.
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