YMTC has officially notified a 3~5% price increase for NAND Flash in mid-May. However, the initial impact of the price hike is expected to be felt in the enterprise market, and it may take some time to reflect in the consumer spot market.
The semiconductor industry is in the midst of a correction period aimed at tackling inventory challenges, and the memory sector is feeling the impact. Major players in global memory manufacturing, including Samsung, SK Hynix, Micron, and YMTC, have recently disclosed substantial cuts in CAPEX, ranging from 45~50% starting from 4Q22. The most recent financial reports from Micron and Samsung further underscore the industry’s downward trend.
TrendForce highlights that YMTC’s decision to raise prices comes amidst market conditions marked by substantial oversupply in the second quarter. Despite Samsung’s efforts to curtail production, the positive effects of this reduction are not anticipated to materialize until the latter part of the year. Consequently, experts predict a more substantial decline in contract prices for the second quarter of 2023 than initially expected.
The market situation in 2Q23 is still oversupplied, leading to further price declines. Since October of last year, the market transaction price for wafers has been lower than the supplier’s cash cost due to selling pressure. Some suppliers used the opportunity when Samsung announced production cuts to raise the wafer price, which is likely why YMTC made this announcement. TrendForce predicts that as demand gradually recovers in the second half of the year, wafer prices will become more resilient. (Photo credit: YMTC LinkedIn)
TrendForce’s latest research indicates that, as production cuts to DRAM and NAND Flash have not kept pace with weakening demand, the ASP of some products is expected to decline further in 2Q23. DRAM prices are projected to fall 13~18%; NAND Flash is expected to fall between 8~13%.
On the other hand, based on the weekly updates on the DRAM and NAND flash spot markets by TrendForce, the spot markets for DRAM and NAND flash continued to decline this week. Details are as follows.
DRAM Spot Market
Spot prices of DDR4 products have been dropping incrementally for several consecutive days, and buyers in the spot market are mostly waiting for further developments. However, there are more quote inquiries for DDR5 products because the supply gap hasn’t been bridged. As a result, there is now an uptick in spot prices of DDR5 products, and the divergence between DDR4 and DDR5 products in terms of price trajectory is expected to continue for several weeks. Nevertheless, spot prices of DDR4 products are showing no sign of rebounding in the near future. The average spot price of mainstream chips (i.e., DDR4 1Gx8 2666MT/s) fell by 0.74% from US$ 1.618 last week to US$ 1.606 this week.
NAND Flash Spot Market
European and American spot markets have yet to recover in purchase sentiment, while some Asian markets, due to the recuperation of the Chinese market, have slightly risen in purchase willingness. Overall spots have not experienced any apparent fluctuations from South Korean suppliers’ announcement of production cuts, despite sellers aggressively adjusting their prices and pursuing orders, which led to a restricted level of overall transactions and a small drop in prices. 512Gb TLC wafer has dropped by 0.35% in spot prices this week, arriving at US$1.431.
According to TrendForce, prices for 4Q22 contracts were mostly finalized in October in contract market. The QoQ decline in the overall DRAM ASP has now reached 18~23%. This discrepancy is due to the fact that Samsung maintains a rather aggressive approach for pricing. Regarding 1Q23, TrendForce has revised the QoQ decline in the overall ASP from 5~10% to 15~20% provided that Samsung continues to be this competitive. TrendForce is also not ruling out the possibility that prices could drop by more than 20% for some types of DRAM products.
As for spot market, October saw spot transactions at their lowest level so far for this year. Moving into November, the ongoing decline in DRAM spot prices will unlikely ease anytime soon as China maintains its strict zero-COVID policy and enforces lockdown for local outbreaks. Furthermore, the major DRAM suppliers have made substantial price concessions in their contract negotiations, thereby creating downward pressure on spot prices as well. TrendForce has observed that the average spot price of the mainstream 1Gb DDR4 chips has been falling rapidly since October 24 with the daily decline exceeding 1%.
Until November 9, the sequential drop in the average spot price of 1Gb DDR4 chips has reached 8.36%. At the same time, spot prices of server DRAM modules have now fallen below the lowest point in the previous cyclical downturn and arrived around US$70. This indicates that there is a considerable room for a further drop in contract prices in 1Q23. Regarding weekly change in the spot price trend of the mainstream chips (i.e., DDR4 1Gx8 2666MT/s), the average spot price slid by 2.30% from US$ 2.222 last week to US$2.171 this week.
（Image credit: Unsplash）
According to TrendForce research, looking at NAND Flash wafers, the pricing of which more sensitively reflects the market, suppliers are increasingly motivated to cut prices in exchange for sales due to weak retail demand since March and a more conservative outlook for shipments of other end products. The price of NAND Flash wafers is expected to begin falling in May and the supply of NAND Flash will gradually overtake demand in 2H22. The price decline of NAND Flash wafers in 3Q22 may reach 5~10%.
At the same time, TrendForce indicates that February’s contamination incident at Kioxia was expected to tighten the market in 2Q22 and 3Q22. However, as a consequence of rising inflation and the war between Russia and Ukraine, market demand for consumer products in the traditional peak season of the second half of the year is trending conservative and the prices of client SSD, eMMC, and UFS in 3Q22 will be flat compared to 2Q22, breaking from the original expectation that prices may rise. In terms of enterprise SSDs, as demand for data centers remains strong, no significant correction in demand has yet been observed. However, as the overall NAND Flash market gradually moves into oversupply, prices will only grow slightly by approximately 0~5% in 3Q22.
Weakening demand in a period of unabated production expansion, NAND Flash may face oversupply in 2H22
From the perspective of demand, due to the war between Russia and Ukraine, rising inflation, and the pandemic in China, overall demand for consumer electronics is weak. Demand for Chromebooks dwindled rapidly at the beginning of 2022 as exogenous demand from the pandemic disappeared. In terms of conventional notebooks, the situation with commercial models and consumer models present a divergence. Demand for commercial notebooks is benefiting from a return to the office occurring in many countries, while the opposite is true for consumer notebooks. Therefore, overall demand for notebooks in 2022 will be lower compared to demand in 2021. In terms of smart phones, the production volume of Chinese brands has been suppressed due to China’s flailing against the pandemic and government lockdowns stemming from a continued insistence on a dynamic zero-COVID policy, resulting in continuous downward revisions of global smart phone production for 2022.
In terms of supply, Samsung is focusing on substantial future growth in the enterprise SSD sector and continues to maintain its original capacity expansion plan, especially after its NAND production line was derailed due to the Xi’an lockdown at the end of last year. In order to stabilize future plant operations, the capacity of its P2L fab in South Korea continues to increase. Yangtze Memory Technologies (YMTC) will also expand its wafer input plan in 2H22. Since the 128L yield rate has reached the company’s goal and it had successfully broken into the tier 1 smartphone supply chain in 1H22, YMTC will also accelerate production at its second factory in Wuhan. Therefore, TrendForce indicates, since an overall weakness in demand will linger in 2022 yet certain manufacturers will maintain a pattern of expanding production, the NAND Flash market will face oversupply in 2H22. As mentioned above, the prices of various products will be flat or experience reduced growth in 3Q22.
According to TrendForce research, demand continues to weaken due to modestly high inventories maintained by buyers and sellers, coupled with the recent impact of the Russian-Ukrainian war and rising inflation on PCs, laptops, and smartphones. However, overall NAND Flash supply has been significantly downgraded in the wake of raw material contamination at Kioxia and WDC in early February, becoming the key factor in a 5~10% NAND Flash price appreciation in 2Q22.
In terms of Client SSD, the Russian-Ukrainian war has compelled PC OEMs to adopt a conservative stocking strategy for orders in 2Q22, which may continue affecting orders during peak season in 2H22, and revising 2022 shipment targets downwards. This year, SSD output has officially stepped out from the shadow of the semiconductor shortage. As Kioxia’s production capacity gradually recovered to supply SSD products in May and production capacity continues to roughly meet customer demand, suppliers have adopted a more aggressive pricing strategy. Price growth in 2Q22 is forecast to moderate to 3~8% compared with original expectations.
In terms of Enterprise SSD, as procurement capacity and orders for servers and hyperscale data centers grow and lead times on Enterprise SSD products balloon due to material contamination at Kioxia and WDC, clients immediately turned to Samsung and Solidigm looking for supply. Since the supply of PCIe 4.0 products is limited, suppliers have adopted a tough price negotiation policy which will drive the price of enterprise SSD up by 5~10% in 2Q22.
In terms of eMMC, demand for consumer products such as TVs, Chromebooks, and tablets continue to weaken, limiting demand for low- and medium-capacity eMMC products to a marginal level. Although the primary supply of low-capacity 2D NAND output has yet to be affected by raw material contamination, the overall deal-making atmosphere of the market remains transformed by the contamination incident. In addition, the plan of suppliers to gradually reduce 2D production capacity has not changed. Therefore, suppliers are eager to maintain profits by increasing the price of relatively low capacity eMMC products. eMMC contract pricing in 2Q22 is forecast to rise by 3-8%.
In terms of UFS, the Russian-Ukrainian war, high inflation, and other factors have weakened demand for the most important UFS applications such as smart phones. Likewise affected by the contamination of raw materials, the total output of 3D NAND has been significantly reduced. For UFS products with larger capacity and higher layer counts, the downgrade in supply far outstrips movement on the demand side. UFS pricing in the 2Q22 is forecast to increase approximately 3~8%. In terms of NAND Flash wafers, although demand for products such as flash drives and memory cards is weak, these are low priority products in the supply chain. Since raw material contamination has seriously affected the supply of NAND Flash wafers. 3D NAND Prices are forecast to move upwards by 5%~10% in 2Q22.