Antimony prices rose by $100 in Europe on Wednesday July 17, supported by the appearance of Minmetals as a buyer in the market last week.

The state-owned metals producer and trader has bought as much as 6,000 tonnes of antimony metal for its own stock, primarily from mainland China but also from the Rotterdam market, according to some trade sources.

Minmetals is purchasing in order to support antimony prices following the sharp drop seen in late June as domestic banks recalled loans issued to antimony producers and traders, sources said.

The move follows purchases of 2,000 tonnes of antimony oxide from Minmetals subsidiary Hsikwang Shan Twinkling Star, the world’s largest antimony producer, between March and May this year.

The buying activity has triggered a strong increase in prices for shipment material from the Chinese market, and was beginning to support the market in Europe on Wednesday.

In Rotterdam, trioxide grade antimony prices climbed to $9,200-500 per tonne, while standard grade II prices rose to $9,100-400 per tonne, with both grades increasing by $100.

Minmetals’ purchasing is likely to have a further effect on the European market in the days and weeks ahead, judging by the $400-plus jump in offers for shipment material seen since rumours that the producer was buying began to circulate early last week, market sources said.

European slowdown
While European demand is slowing down as consumers start seasonal shutdowns, any buyers that are not covered may find they will have to pay significantly higher prices, trade sources said.

“I think consumers have been spoiled with lower prices and it will take some time for them to adjust to this,” a European trader said, adding that Minmetals has also been competing for material in Rotterdam.

Many western traders have been trading back-to-back and running down positions this year, creating the possibility that sustained purchasing from Minmetals will leave consumers in Europe more dependent on Chinese suppliers, a second trader told Metal Bulletin.

Minmetals was not immediately available for comment.

Mark Burton
Twitter: @mburtonmb