GLOBAL CHROME WRAP: Weak steel market weighs on Chinese ferro-chrome, ore prices; US market consolidates recent gains

Chinese ferro-chrome and ore market were virtually unchanged in the past week amid slow business conditions, while other Asian markets dropped against weak trading activity and relatively low prices in key market China.

Consumers in China are being cautioned on their intake of raw materials due to lower steel product prices and plentiful chrome alloy availability. 

  • Chinese markets move slowly amid low key trading activity 
  • Japan and South Korea track China down 
  • US prices consolidate gains 
  • European low-carbon ferro-chrome market posts price gains


China ferro-chrome, UG2 flat amid negative outlook
Ferro-chrome prices in China were virtually unchanged on Friday November 17 amid low trading activity. Market sentiment was negative due to lower Chinese domestic stainless steel prices and ample ferro-chrome supply.

Dealers expect lower monthly ferro-chrome tender prices for December from Chinese major stainless steel mills.

Metal Bulletin’s price assessment for Chinese spot domestic ferro-chrome was 7,400-7,500 yuan ($1,114-1,130) per tonne on Friday, from 7,500-7,800 yuan per tonne the week prior.

The latest spot domestic ferro-chrome price is equivalent to $0.86-0.87 per lb, almost level with previous week’s price.

Metal Bulletin calculated the charge chrome index cif Shanghai at $0.99 per lb, unchanged from the week before.

Dealers are bearish about December’s ferro-chrome tender prices from major stainless steel mills.

“Chinese stainless steel production is decreasing in November compared with October, while Chinese stainless steel mills’ orders in December are even less than November’s level,” a charge chrome trader based in Shanghai said. “That means dealers reckon there will be lower monthly production in December [month on month].” 

China’s domestic stainless steel prices fell again in the past week amid losses in the nickel market, Metal Bulletin reported on Thursday November 16.

Metal Bulletin’s assessment of prices for benchmark 304 stainless cold rolled coil was 14,500-15,300 yuan per tonne, including VAT, in the major market of Wuxi for the week ended Thursday November 16, down 300-500 yuan per tonne from a week before.

“Ample Chinese domestic ferro-chrome supply and Chinese chrome ore in recent months are also weighing on ferro-chrome prices,” a second ferro-chrome trader based in Taiyuan said.

“Chinese domestic ferro-chrome production in October hit an historic peak, surpassing 0.51 million tonnes. Dealers estimate high production levels in November and December,” a third ferro-chrome trader based in Tianjin said.

“Stainless steel mills are reluctant to buy overseas spot cargoes or domestic spot ferro-chrome as we have enough stockpiled,” a major stainless steel mills’ ferro-chrome purchaser said.

“A northwestern China stainless steel mill purchased only half the amount they usually do in October,” the purchaser said.

Metal Bulletin’s latest price assessment for Chinese domestic high-carbon ferro-chrome on contracts stood at 7,700-7,900 yuan per tonne on Friday, rolled over from the week before on November tender prices from major Chinese stainless steel mills.

The latest contract domestic ferro-chrome price is equivalent to $0.90-0.92 per lb.

Metal Bulletin’s UG2 chrome ore index cif China edged higher by $1 to $170 per tonne on Friday, from $169 per tonne the week before. It was at $220 on October 13.

Market sentiment outlook for UG2 prices in China is negative due to high chrome ore stocks at Chinese ports, traders said. Chinese chrome ore stocks stood at 2.376 million tonnes as of Friday November 17, according to Chinese market data, 3.4 tonnes higher than the week before and almost 49 tonnes higher than Friday September 15.

Japan, Korea slips further in line with weak China
In Japan and South Korea, the high-carbon ferro-chrome spot market was assessed lower in the past week, with cif prices down in line with China.

“China prices are very low so we prefer to sell in Japan and South Korea, but are not getting much of a response from them,” an Indian supplier said.

A second Indian supplier said: “We are not able to conclude any deals, and customers are not in a mood to talk so traders are not taking positions.”

“Ferro-chrome is a tough market for a seller, with prices crashing a trader doesn’t know if he can make any money on cargoes, that’s why traders have stepped away.”

Metal Bulletin’s spot price quotation for high-carbon ferro-chrome cif Japan was assessed at $0.90-0.95 per lb on Thursday November 16, compared with $0.90-0.98 per lb a week before.

Metal Bulletin assessed high-carbon ferro-chrome cif South Korea prices at $0.90-0.93 per lb, down from $0.90-0.98 per lb last week.

One Indian seller was offering material at $0.86 per lb, a Korean source said, adding: “It’s not a normal price but it is for regular material…we are considering the offer.”

A tender for 100 tonnes of alloy closed last week at below $0.90 per lb, the Korean source had heard, although he could not confirm the precise price.

European ferro-chrome edges higher
The spot market for Europe’s most widely traded refined ferro-chrome edged higher in the past week after dealers reported sales being done across the region.

Metal Bulletin’s price assessment for low carbon ferro-chrome (Cr 0.10%) on a delivered Europe basis was at $2.20-2.33 per lb on November 17.

Suppliers reported sales of around 400 tonnes of the grade to buyers in Sweden, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom at $2.25-2.33 per lb delivered duty-paid. One supplier has increased its offer price by10 cents to almost $2.25 per lb in the past week due to a stronger trend on offer prices.

Traders reported doing deals for a few truckloads of the alloy at close to $2.20 per lb.

“Ferro-chrome demand worldwide is strong...particularly for low-carbon alloy and the market is tighter than ever,” one source said.

“Consumers are being responsible this year and booking their long-term contracts early as they see low-carbon ferro-chrome becoming the next graphite electrode [shortage] and don’t want to be left short.”

Some suppliers said they had done virtually all of their long-term delivery settlements already instead of at the Metal Bulletin annual International Ferro-alloy conference, in Lisbon this week.

“Due to the shortage of material in the spot market....anyone who is willing to rely on the spot market next year is taking a huge risk as we will not have a kilo to sell them,” one supplier said.

Offer prices for low-phosphorous ferro-chrome were reported at $1.35-1.40 per lb and unchanged since October 6.

Metal Bulletin’s price assessment for high-carbon ferro-chrome on a delivered Europe basis was at $1.25-1.35 per lb on November 17, unchanged for four weeks in a row. No deals were reported on a spot basis or on an inter-merchant basis, with consumers relying on long-term delivery settlements.

Metal Bulletin’s European ferro-chrome benchmark indicator was steady in the past week, currently standing at $1.29 per lb. The benchmark was at a quarterly peak of $1.41 per lb in mid-October. 

Turkish chrome ore offers are stable at $335-345 per tonne. Chrome ore miners in Turkey will be shutting some production as usual this winter, and the prospect of lower supplies is supporting offer prices, Turkish sources said.

European sources said they expected Chinese ferro-chrome producers to be content to consume stock levels located at ports in China, while major producers of the alloy adopt a wait-and-see attitude until prices pick up towards the end of the next quarter.

US spot market consolidates gains
The US high-carbon ferro-chrome market has been steady in the past week, consolidating a small increase from the week before, with dealers engaged in long-term contract negotiations. 

Spot prices for US high-carbon ferro-chrome was $1.40-1.48 per lb on November 16, according to American Metal Market’s latest assessment. 

Dealers noted more demand in the past week after slow trading activity in the first half of November.

“It isn’t very busy yet but there are definitely more inquiries right now,” a supplier source said to American Metal Market.

Suppliers and consumers have been negotiating long-term contract delivery settlements, although little progress has been made until now. Dealers expect little price movement on the spot market until long-term settlements are finalized.

The US low-carbon ferro-chrome market has been underpinned on lower stock levels and stronger international prices. US 0.10% low-carbon ferro-chrome prices were assessed at $2.10-2.15 per lb on November 16, unchanged week on week.

“Our stocks are not plentiful and we need to make sure we have enough inventory to meet our [delivery] commitments,” a supplier source told American Metal Market.

Traders’ stock levels are running low, sources said, prompting more inter-merchant buying interest, sources said.

“It is clear the market is getting a lot tighter and supply options are limited,” a second supplier source said.

Metal Bulletin ferro-chrome prices

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