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What’s driving Chinese raw materials’ price surge

For buyers who frequently import from China, it might become a common scenario in the past couple months that you constantly received emails from your Chinese suppliers, informing you the tremendous turmoil in the Chinese commodities’ prices.

· Price trends


For buyers who frequently import from China, it might become a common scenario in the past couple months that you constantly received emails from your Chinese suppliers, informing you the tremendous turmoil in the Chinese commodities’ prices. To seriously tell you the truth, it’s the very fact that Chinese raw materials price are exploding.

Believe it or not, it has been many years that Chinese raw material markets didn’t go through such a big price fluctuation. According to the Chinese Medias, all raw materials prices are increasing sharply, including iron, chemicals, paper, glass etc. For instance, coal is now up 200% year-to-date; steel has also pointed at the record high 5,000 RMB/ton. PE plastic indexes are on a tear, jumping around 5.71% in the last three days alone. In particular, the paper price has gone up crazily. Since Dec., raw paper price is going up substantially 100-500 Yuan/ ton, while the paper board price is exploding by 20%. It’s no exaggeration to say that paper price is climbing double or even 3 times within one week. Unfortunately, nobody is able to say yet how long this will last.

Reasons behind the severity of recent big surge

Things become very serious this time. Many factories have told us a lot cost has increased and will keep increasing crazily. The rising of raw materials have brought such retaliatory price surge to the finished products. Chinese suppliers would tell you they have this reason to bring up their price accordingly. Not that I doubt it, but it’s right to some extent. Here, I am going to explain the reasoning behind the recent explosive move in Chinese raw material markets.

Reason 1: Coal Output Reduction

Let’s go back to couple years ago when Chinese government decided to cut coal production to improve its terrible air quality. They have worked on shrinking coal industry all the time, but things didn’t turn out as expected. This time, the government strengthened their efforts. But they may have worked too hard. As we all know, coal is the basic and critical source for Chinese people. But prices have gone up more than 50% this year after the government commanded a 16% production reduction to ease the air pollution pressure.

Some experts said, as a matter of fact, the number was way way bigger than the government planed. Due to the strict rule, a large number of illegal miners were closed down, which used to be attributed to over one third coal supply in China. As a matter of fact, due to this strict move, about 36% coal supply was cut off. However, with the winter coming, fuel demand peaks. That’s where the Chinese price turmoil mainly came from. The fuel output reduction backfired on the whole supply chain. While the fuel price is increasing, that’s reasonable why the whole Chinese manufacturing is going through this tremendous price explosion. For instance, due to the price surge of coal, steel price is dramatically boosted in the last 3 months.

steel index

Reason 2: Sharp Rise on Chemicals Price

During the last half year, chemical materials have been keeping on the rise. For instance, in Chinese market, the price of TDI has crazily turned more than double to the record highs. At the beginning, its price was 10,000 RMB/ton, but now, it has spiked at 60,000 RMB/ton, the highest level since 2009. Similarly, NPG has been through a cumulative increase from 6000 RMB/ton to 13,800 RMB/ton. The chemical material price is astounding. More than that, nearly all chemical materials have clambered their price by more than 50%. In some cases, the price has spiked by 200%. Experts say that in the next long term, the prices of chemical materials still keep at the rising tendency. Due to the cost pressure, downstream factories have to nudge their price increasing as well.

Isocyanates TDI DEL China

Reason 3: Transport Cost Climbs

Two forces from domestic and international sides have brought the blowout rising in transport cost. On the one side, crude oil is exploding higher all the time in these months. Crude oil futures are going up constantly in Asia, jumping around 5%. As we know, it’s not just oil prices that rise, the whole supply chain rises as well, because oil is used in many ways in plastic products and transporting. Plastic materials are the basic element in the market. Oil price goes up, and then all commodities that are involving with plastics are climbing too. What’s more, the cost of transporting goods of all types rises, since oil is used in all methods of vehicles.

Transport Cost Climbs

On the other side, since Sept., 21st, China has executed the “historically strictest” new standards on the national highway freight transport vehicles, aiming to strengthen the management of road traffic safety, and reduce road traffic accidents. In the past, trucking companies used to transport heavy cargoes with improper trucks. That could not be a serious problem in China. But things changed now. The new standard clearly regulates that overloading or improper trucking will get a heavy penalty. Thus, trucking companies have to upgrade their truck capacity in order to comply with the new traffic rule. As a result, this move increases the cost of logistics. As far as we have concerned, the transport cost is going up substantially by 33.6%.

Reason 4: Chinese RMB Strengthening To 6.10 Against U.S. Dollar By Year End

Nordic corporate bank SEB has revised its forecast lower on the Chinese Yuan (CNY) against the U.S dollar to 6.10 by the end of this year, an appreciation of 3.174% over their previous projection of 6.30. By the end of 2019 the bank’s analysts predict the Greenback at CNY5.80 - indicating an almost 5% strengthening on an earlier forecast (6.10).

Today at 10:29 a.m. New York time, the USD/CNY spot rate was quoted on Bloomberg at 6.2888, which was -0.0351 (-0.56%) off from the overnight position. And, were SEB’s end of year forecast for 2018 were to prove to correct it would mean the Yuan would have strengthened by 3%. A week ago on 24 January USD/CNY rate stood at 6.37.

But illustrating how things change, last week ago the bank published its latest Currency Strategy report citing a slower economy for China, but a stronger CNY - albeit at 6.30 by year end. The 12-month consensus on the currency pair was put at between 6.49 and 6.54 according to Bloomberg's survey FX forecasts.


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