WASHINGTONNatural rubber (NR) prices fallen to their lowest levels on Asian markets since late 2009, prompting concerns that China, the world's largest NR consumer, faces a slowing economy.
However, sources in the rubber trade said they believed other factors were at work regarding NR prices, and suggested that the current dip may not last long.
Data from the Tokyo Commodity Exchange Jan. 8 showed rubber futures at 256.1 yen ($2.46) per kilogram, up 2.1 yen from the two-month low posted the day before.
The Jan. 8 price for Technically Specified Rubber 20the grade of rubber used for tire manufacturingwas priced at 218.7 cents per kilo, compared with 218.5 Jan. 7 and 229.5 Dec. 27.
News reports Jan. 6 placed Chinese NR stockpiles at a nine-year high, which contributed to fears that the Chinese economy is weakening.
The Chinese economy has been off, and current (NR) prices are a little bit of a red flag for me, said an industry source who asked to remain anonymous. We'll see an economic slowdown in China. But I also think the U.S. economy is back, and we are a horrendous consumer of things. Furthermore, a lot of the things the U.S. consumes come from China.
I always feel that China gets the best of us, the source said. Things will be quiet for a while, then they start buying up everything.
Greg Jagt, vice president of trading at Astlett Rubber Inc. in Oakville, Ontario, noted the Shan-ghai futures market seemed to be falling faster than most other markets while Vietnamone of China's largest NR suppliershad increased NR production 14 percent in 2013 and seemed poised to raise production still further.