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Commodities eye

Prices dive in 2015 on falling demand, Chinese supply glut

Falling prices for LCD panels have lowered the cost of TVs in Japan.

TOKYO -- Prices of liquid crystal display panels mainly for televisions and computers have plunged this year, sapped by the ruinous combination of expanding supplies and waning sales.

     Chinese LCD panel makers have been aggressively adding production capacity while demand for consumer electronics has turned lackluster in emerging economies.

     Amid bloated inventories, prices of panels for TVs typically have dropped around 30% over the past year. Large-lot users of mainstream 32-inch panels are paying $60-$65 apiece, 4% lower than a month ago, while 42-inch panels go for around $125.

     These declines contrast sharply with 2014, when the burgeoning market for 4K TVs left 50-inch and larger LCD panels in short supply and prices for even 32-inch panels rose by more than 15%. But currencies weakened this year in emerging countries like Indonesia, dampening demand for LCD TVs in those economies. TV makers have responded by hunkering down and looking for ways to cut costs.

     Chinese LCD makers like BOE Technology Group have thrown oil on the fire by investing in more production equipment. Busily opening new factories, their combined share of the global LCD panel market reached 19% in 2015 and is headed toward 28% in 2018, which would put them on par with Taiwanese makers, U.S. market research company IHS Technology said.

     Intent on expanding market share, the Chinese panel makers show no inclination to curb output. Their price war on the mainland against the Taiwanese makers looks to continue, even though panel prices have plunged since the summer amid a stagnating TV market.

     The drop in LCD panel prices is lowering retail TV prices. Stores in Japan are selling 40- to 43-inch 4K TVs for 110,000-150,000 yen ($905-$1,234), or 10%-20% cheaper than in the summer.

     Similar price declines are occurring among LCD panels for computers. Large-lot users now pay around $30 for the 15.6-inch panels for notebooks, down about 25% from the end of 2014. Prices of panels for desktop computer displays also are falling.

     Prices of LCD panels for PCs moved within a set range in 2014, supported by the demand for new computers precipitated by the end of support for Windows XP. But that round of buying ended in 2015, and the popularization of smartphones has further pressured the contracting PC market.

(Nikkei)

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