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Showing posts tagged 'rare earth metals'


24 November 2021

Global chip shortage to impact electronic retailers holiday season

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The holiday season usually marks the start of an electronics sales boon for retailers. Consumers buy more electronics in the lead up to Christmas than at any other time of the year. This year, however, things are different.

This holiday season, the global chip shortage is set to impact electronic retailers, with shortages of popular products like games consoles, graphics cards, smartphones, laptops and tablets likely to persist through to 2022.

Due to problems buying stock, most retailers are bracing themselves for low Christmas electronics goods sales. The global chip shortage means fewer electronics goods are being made, so there is a long lead time from suppliers - some retailers are waiting several months for new stock, only for it to sell out within days.

Consumers should start holiday shopping now 

Chips are in critically short supply this year, which has reduced manufacturing output at many of the world’s biggest factories.

Companies like Samsung, Apple, Intel and AMD are experiencing problems getting the chips they need. Today, some chips have delays of over a year, and inventory supplies for chips are running low, putting pressure on supply chains.

All of this means there is a shortage of in-demand electronics goods, from games consoles to smartwatches. The message is simple - consumers should start holiday shopping now to ensure they can get hold of the electronics they want.

It is also crucial that consumers don’t take stock levels for granted. What’s in stock today might be out of stock tomorrow, and many retailers have lead times of several months for new stock. So, if you need it, you should buy it while you can.

Is the chip shortage being blown out of proportion? 

We are so used to next-day Amazon delivery and seeing shiny electronics on store shelves that chip shortages appear to be a fantasy.

However, the chip shortage is real - manufacturers are struggling to create enough chips, and suppliers can’t get hold of the inventory they need.

Another fox in the henhouse is chip price increases. Companies are bidding through the roof for components, and prices are rising rapidly. Manufacturers don’t absorb these price rises - they are passed down the supply chain, and eventually, they find their way to the consumer (creating consumer inflation).

Chip prices are increasing for several reasons. The obvious reason is supply and demand economics - the less available something is, the higher the price.

Another significant reason is prices for rare earth metals have exploded over the last 12 months, moving nearly 50% higher on average since March.

Summing up the chip shortage

There is a severe chip shortage happening right now that threatens the availability of electronics goods this holiday season. Prices for chips are also skyrocketing, increasing the price of devices like smartphones and smart devices.

All of this is to say, if you plan on buying some chip-reliant electronics this holiday season, you should start shopping now or face being disappointed.

Tags: global chip shortage graphics cards samsung apple intel and amd chip price increases rare earth metals


06 October 2021

Rare earth metal prices explode

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Prices for rare earth metals have exploded over the last 12 months, moving nearly 50% higher on average since March.

This development could push prices of electronics components higher than ever, as a perfect storm of expensive raw materials + limited production capacity + higher demand = rocketing prices.

As we are seeing with the global semiconductor shortage, fluctuations in supply chains ripple through the electronics industry.

Electronic component shortages have, in part, been caused by reduced mining quota for raw materials including rate earth metals. But the problem now isn’t a lack of mining, but the soaring demand for rare earth metals.

The high price reflects strong demand. Rare earth metals are used in most electronic components and devices, from integrated circuits to displays, vibration motors and storage, so it’s easy to see why demand is so strong. 

For example, materials like neodymium and praseodymium used to make magnets have seen a 73% increase in demand in 2021. Holmium oxide used in sensors, terbium oxide used in displays and cobalt used in batteries have also seen increases.

Why have prices exploded?

China is the only country in the world with a complete supply chain for rare earth metals from mining, to refining, to processing. With over 55% of global production and 85% refining output, the world depends on them for rare earth metals.

In January, Beijing hinted at tightening controls for earth metal exports, triggering panic across the world and sending prices soaring.

For those of you who remember, rare earth prices exploded in 2011 when China’s export volumes collapsed. China cut export quotas of the 17 rare earth metals and raised tariffs on exports, sending prices soaring by more than 50%.

Talk about déjà vu!

Another factor for the price explosion is supply and demand. Even with China’s hints, demand for rare earth metals is outstripping supply. The world is using more electronics than at any time in its history, and rare earth metals are needed to make more of them.

It isn’t only relatively unknown materials like neodymium and praseodymium that are surging in price, but also more commonly known materials like tin, aluminium and copper, which have also surged in price in 2021.

So, in a nutshell, demand for rare earth metals is outstripping supply, and China (which has significant control over rare earth metals) has hinted at tightening exports, sending a shockwave through the supply chain.

The issue is bad and will take time to resolve. The United States is the second biggest producer of rare earth metals, and in February, President Joe Biden announced a review into domestic supply chains for rare earths, medical devices, chips and other resources, with a $30 million initiative to secure new supply chains.

Unfortunately for the world, China’s control of 55% of global production and 85% of refining output for rare earth metals means they control the market. Missteps, problems at home, and hints about tightening controls have already sent rare earth metal prices soaring, and it stands to reason they will continue creeping higher in the near-term. 

Tags: rare earth metals limited production capacity higher demand semiconductor shortage supply chains electronic components


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