A Taylor, Jr
INDIUM ADVOCATE NEWS
Issue No. 26 Outlook Reexamined October – December 2006
This outlook is based on structured, in-depth conversations with well-placed industry observers, some preliminary statistics, a few press releases and related trade press items, and the professional judgment of the Publisher/Editor, Harold A. Taylor, Jr.
General Outlook for 2006: The general outlook for indium is strong for 2006, as is the outlook for dimension stone. Neither outlook is as strong as in the few previous years. The outlook for graphite is neutral.
Outlook for ITO Thin-film Coatings: The major end-use, ITO (indium tin oxide) is applied by sputtering as a thin electrically-conducting transparent coating on glass, making a transparent electrode that controls the pixels lighting. The glass is used as flat-panel television or laptop computer screens, or as LCDs for watches. The worldwide demand for ITO in 2006 as sales resulted in North America-European 2006 indium sales for ITO up 2%-4% from 2005 and the rest-of-world (where most indium is consumed, i.e. East Asia) sales up over 40% from 2005. Sales of indium for ITO in 2007 is likely to be below 2006. Sales of flat panel TV screens still continued strong worldwide in 2006 in spite of the high price of indium; this makes sense because the small amount of ITO in each TV has a minimal impact on the TV price.
Outlook for indium alloys and solders: Indium is used in low-melting-point and specialized solders (the larger subgroup) and low-temperature fusible alloys. Indium fusible alloys are used in electric fuses and sprinkler heads. Worldwide 2006 demand for indium solders and alloys resulted in indium sales up 3%-5% by volume compared with 2005, with 2006 sales varying to a minimal extent from the U.S. to the rest of the world; 2007 sales will resemble 2006 in quantity.
Outlook for semiconductors: LEDs, lasers: LEDs (light-emitting diodes) are optoelectronic devices made up of III-V semiconductors in its substrate and epitaxial layer, used in low-brightness display emitters (car interiors) and high-brightness emitters (car stop lights and turn signals), and in communications emitters (transmits data in fiberoptic cables). Demand in this small end-use in 2006 resulted in sales up 5% from 2005.
Statistical Parameters: The U.S.-Japan Indium Usage Index was 100 in 1999, 118 in 2000, 148 in 2001, 150 in 2002, 229 in 2003, 334 in 2004, 335 in 2005 (final), and 290 in 2006 (very preliminary). The NY Dealers' price for indium after the November 2003 to March 2004 price spike (details in IAN Issue 17) backed and filled around the $585–$640 per kg of May 2004, then rose to $880-$940 per kg in late October 2004, and $850–$900 per kg from the beginning of November until the beginning of December. Then the price was $780–$850 per kg in late December 2004, $990–$1025 per kg in early February 2005, $980–$1050 per kg in late April, hit a low at $850–$950 per kg in late July, then $940–$980 per kg in early August, and $970–$1060 per kg in midSeptember 2005. Since then, the prices have trended downwards to a low of $830–$880 per kg in early Jan 2006, a recovery to a high of $980-1025 in midMarch 2006, then a steady drop into midOctober with intermediate prices of $945–$950 per kg in midMay 2006, $760–$810 in midJune, $700–$750 in mid-August, and finally $650–$700 per kg in midOctober 2006. Thus the price has been ranging from $600 to slightly over $1000 per kg for more than the last two years.