There are factors may push high titanium dioxide prices in Q1 of 2021
Snug supply from Q4 2020 could continue into Q1 2021. The shortage of containers in China is also a major concern for market players and many were facing delays in shipment, which could exacerbate the snug supply situation. As a result, buyers outside of China could still be seeing relatively limited spot availability. During the Lunar New Year holiday period, production at some plants could halt for maintenance works.
In China, producers are expecting demand to pick up in March. Outside of China, the demand situation depends on the coronavirus situation. While some countries see more success in the containment of the virus and are restarting their economies, others may still be imposing lockdown measures in an ongoing battle against the pandemic. Such uncertainties prompted buyers to take a cautious stance and they are expected to buy on a need-to basis, as seen in 2020.
Supply could tighten in Q1, as European suppliers have switched to more domestic, over import, sourcing, due to the tight and bullish Asia sentiment, compounded by the spiking sea freight costs.
Consumption is expected to increase in Q1, amid preparations for the next coatings season, continued downstream recovery, and if Asian imports remain economically uninteresting. There may, however, be instances of diluted demand in Q1, following the particularly strong DIY season in 2020 and Brexit-related stock provisions in the UK at the end of 2020, although this may be offset by the lack of competition from Asian imports.
US TiO2 supply during Q1 is expected to remain broadly balanced with demand as producers adjust pigment production for the start of the paint-blending season in the latter part of the period. A shortage of 1-gallon paint cans emerged in H2 2020 on strong interest from the do-it-yourself (DIY) paint sector, and that backlog may continue until coronavirus vaccines are able to be rolled out more widely.
In Q1, TiO2 demand from downstream architectural coatings, led by residential builds, is expected to gain momentum, especially just ahead of the spring coatings season. The automotive, packaging and do-it-yourself (DIY) sectors will continue to see healthy demand at least through the first half of 2021, especially if coronavirus vaccines are more widely implemented. Broad economic uncertainty, however, and unemployment levels will keep year-on-year Q1 demand volumes either below or flat with previous norms.