China’s graphite electrodes market stable amid slow demand

The graphite electrodes markets in China remained quiet in the two weeks ended Wednesday May 10 due to slow liquidity resulting from weak steelmaking sectors both at home and abroad

Fastmarkets’ latest price assessment for graphite electrodes, ultra high power, fob China, was $2,950-3,600 per tonne on Wednesday, in line with the previous two assessments.

On the same day, the price for graphite electrodes, high power, fob China, was assessed at $2,650-3,000 per tonne, unchanged from the previous assessment.

The prices for both grades of graphite electrodes have been on a downward trend in the past two months, with prices for UHP falling by 13.82% to $2,950-3,600 per tonne in the middle of April, while HP prices dropped by 7.37% to $2,650-3,000 per tonne late in April compared with the middle of March.

Market participants unanimously lamented the slow recovery of demand in the downstream steelmaking sector, as well as the lack of urgency among electrodes producers to recover their output volumes after the cuts last year, due to narrowing profit margins.

Another factor making it difficult for producers to sell was that coke prices have risen while electrode prices have been stable. Furthermore, imports of UHP into Europe faced high duties, according to a trader in that region.

The electrodes market was now showing weakness in both supply and demand.

“Many producers have been cutting output to sustain prices and marginal profits. Most of the electrodes delivered could have been from existing inventory,” a producer in China said. “On the demand side, we are seeing reducing operation rates at electric-arc furnaces in China, one of the major downstream applications for electrodes, and lower tender volumes from steel mills.”

Slow electrode demand in the international markets

Elsewhere, demand in the international markets was facing challenges of slow demand, anti-dumping duties on UHP, and price competition from the rest of the world.

“The pressure is on for offers to drop, but I don’t know if producers can do it,” a second trader in Europe said.

A second producer in China said that overseas buyers were reluctant to place orders when the economic outlook was uncertain. While there are increasing numbers of inquiries, very few deals were being done.

In addition, while Chinese producers remained in a good position regarding HP materials. Imports of high-power electrodes into Europe were more competitive than ultra high-power because they are not liable to the same duties.

The price difference between UHPs from China and the rest of the world has narrowed and, according to a third trader in Europe, there is now increased competition from the rest of the world.

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