Tin Prices Soar on Electronics Demand, Shipping Trouble

Beckett Bronze Company was incorporated May 21, 1913 as the Delaware Brass and Aluminum Company by a group of stockholders which included John Beckett, a molder, and his son, Charles. Deal direct for cast bronze parts or bars made to your exact specifications for any application. Veteran owned. Competitive prices and delivery.

High demand for consumer electronics and difficulties shipping metal out of Asia have created a shortage of tin, pushing prices for the metal close to record highs for the first time in a decade.

On the London Metal Exchange, the price of tin to be delivered in three months has soared 47% this year to $29,820 a metric ton, outstripping other metals such as copper and aluminum. Tin last fetched as much at the height of the run-up in metal markets in 2011, when prices crested at more than $33,000 a ton.

Tin’s advance is one of the biggest moves in commodity markets that have ripped higher, feeding expectations among investors that inflation will accelerate, at least temporarily. Lofty commodity prices have acted as a brake on factories. Companies are looking to pass higher input costs through to consumers, some of whom are feeling the pinch. Worries about inflation have sent jitters through Wall Street, hurting stocks.

Tin prices since 2010Source: FactSetNote: Prices are for tin to be delivered in threemonths’ time on the London Metal Exchange.

.a metric ton


Supplies of tin in London Metal ExchangewarehousesSource: FactSetNote: Weekly data

.metric tons


“Demand is wild across the board,” said Evan Morris, co-president of Nathan Trotter & Co., adding that he has never experienced such acute shortages of tin.

The Sadsburyville, Pa.-based manufacturer of solder wire and other tin products is racing to keep up with orders. Coronavirus has constrained supplies of raw metal coming out of Indonesia and elsewhere, while a snarl-up in container-shipping markets has led to weekslong delays in transporting tin from Southeast Asia and Latin America.

The market for tin—the most expensive of the major base metals—tumbled in 2019 when a downturn in semiconductor sales knocked demand. Prices took another leg lower when lockdowns and the closure of factories hit sales of industrial commodities in early 2020.

Fast forward a year and the market is “probably the most squeezed it’s ever been,” said Charles Swindon, managing director of U.K.-based RJH Trading Ltd.

Demand is strongest in the U.S., pushing prices on the ground as much as $3,000 a ton above where tin trades on the LME, according to Mr. Swindon. The high price “reflects genuine demand; otherwise people wouldn’t be paying these premiums,” he said.

Shares of mining companies are gaining from the jump in metals prices. BlackRock Inc.’s iShares MSCI Global Metals & Mining Producers exchange-traded fund has risen 38% this year.

Behind tin’s comeback is a surge in sales of consumer electronics such as laptops, cellphones and televisions during the pandemic. Solder, the melted metal used to attach semiconductor chips to circuit boards and electronic devices, accounts for about half of global tin demand, said James Willoughby, analyst at the International Tin Association.

The value of world-wide semiconductor sales rose 3.6% in the first three months of 2021 compared with the previous quarter, and 17.8% from a year before, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association, a U.S. industry group.

The hot housing market is also aiding tin’s recovery. Tin, used to make certain plastics more resistant to heat, is benefiting from a rush to buy drainpipes and cladding for new homes.

Supplies are running low. Just 490 tons of refined tin were available in London Metal Exchange warehouses dotted around the world last week, with 840 more earmarked for withdrawal. That is just over half what was available at the end of 2020.

Metal in LME sheds is considered the source of last resort, so removals indicate shortages in the wider market, said Tom Mulqueen, an analyst at Amalgamated Metal Trading Ltd.

The rally is giving succor to aspiring tin miner Cornish Metals Inc. Last month, the company drove a diamond-encrusted drill into the ground to search for copper and tin in the Gwennap district of Cornwall, southwest England, where copper was mined in the 1700s and 1800s. To pay for the exploration, Cornish Metals listed its shares in London and raised £8.2 million, or the equivalent of $11.6 million, a deal that gained traction because of the upswing in prices, said Chief Executive Richard Williams.

Cornish Metals is weighing ways to raise more money to drain as much as 10 million cubic meters of water from South Crofty, a separate, disused tin mine a few miles down the road. Options include another equity raise or a private-equity backer, according to Mr. Williams.

Freight rates from Asia to:Source: Baltic Exchange & FreightosNote: Rates measure prices in the spot freight market, as opposed to longer-term contracts.

.a 40-foot containerNorth America WestCoastNorth America EastCoast

Northern Europe2020’2101,0002,0003,0004,0005,0006,0007,0008,000$9,000

Another factor feeding into a dearth of refined tin in the West is the monthslong shortage of shipping containers. Traders face delays and high prices to ship refined metal from Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, the biggest suppliers to buyers outside China.

In the spot freight market, the cost of a 40-foot container moving goods from Asia to the West Coast stood at $5,144 Friday, according to freight-booking platform Freightos, more than three times higher than at the start of 2020.

Write to Joe Wallace at Joe.Wallace@wsj.com


What has been your experience with buying consumer electronics during the pandemic? Join the conversation below.

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Over 100 Years Experience – Manufacturers of Bronze Bearings, Bushings, and Continuous Cast Bars Since 1913