This month’s key ferro-alloy forecast highlights:

• In a strong start to the year, January saw ore and alloy pricing gains across all markets priced by Fastmarkets - with the exception of Chinese silicon metal export prices, which retreated slightly last month after posting impressive gains in December 2020. The combination of improving demand together with limited supplies and low inventories in most markets has been driving ore and alloy prices higher in early 2021. Renewed Covid-19 restrictions in South Africa are again propelling both chrome and manganese prices higher this month. We are forecasting upward pricing momentum to continue in most markets through the first quarter as the demand and supply fundamentals remain price-supportive in the near term.

• After months of relative pricing stability, chrome prices have spiked in recent weeks. Above all, this has been caused by new restrictions imposed on cross-border transit within South Africa, affecting key supply routes to the Maputo port in Mozambique. A repetition of the two-month-long price spike for chrome materials seen in April/May of last year appears likely.

• Manganese ore and alloy prices are surging on supply constraints; not only have several smelters scaled down their alloy production, but there are several pandemic-related logistics issues - particularly in South Africa - affecting supply. Assmang has declared force majeure on its medium-carbon ferro-manganese production in South Africa, and the recent unplanned outage at Privat’s Zaporozhye manganese alloy plant in Ukraine also has been affecting supply and driving prices higher.

• We maintain a positive view for vanadium demand in 2021, supported by continued expansion in global economies recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic and the positive benefits of government stimulus efforts, particularly with regard to infrastructure spending and in turn rebar and vanadium consumption. While comprising only a small portion of total vanadium demand, growing focus on green and renewable energy - given another boost by the new presidential administration in the United States and the need for battery storage for renewable energy sources - will support vanadium redox flow battery (VRFB) technology and also spur higher demand for vanadium from the energy sector during 2021 and beyond. We forecast vanadium prices to remain elevated through the first quarter on tight supply and strengthening demand from steelmakers.

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