CHINA COBALT SNAPSHOT: Falling international prices, post-holiday lull hit Chinese cobalt prices

Key data from the Wednesday February 13 pricing session in Shanghai.

Key drivers 

  • The cobalt sulfate price, Co 20.5% min, China ex-works price dropped midweek amid few spot activities after the Chinese New Year holiday on February 4-10. 
  • Weak spot demand is likely to last until late February or early March because some consumers will not resume business until after the Lantern Festival on February 19, in accordance with Chinese tradition. 
  • In addition, most consumers have stockpiled enough materials to enable them to operate until the end of February, so there is no urgency to replenish feedstocks. 
  • On top of that, falling international cobalt benchmark prices during the week-long Chinese holiday and lingering bearish outlook dented buying appetite in China. 
  • Fastmarkets MB’s standard-grade cobalt benchmark price dropped 4.2% across the two pricing sessions last week. The benchmark metal price fell further to $17.30-19.45 per lb on February 13, down 1.9% from Friday.

Key quotes:
“Quite a few consumers have enough stock and won’t need to top up again until late February; in addition, given the persistent falling European cobalt benchmark, consumers are taking a watchful stance and won’t be in a hurry to build up stocks” – producer 1
“The market is not short of cobalt sulfate after all, and the momentum we saw ahead of the Chinese New Year holiday won’t last after the break” – producer 2
“Some producers have offered me [lower prices] this week for cargoes delivered in March, which I might have taken before the holiday, but now I think I can even ask for another discount of 2,000-3,000 yuan per tonne, and they would agree” – a consumer