Chinese seaborne manganese ore prices climb further but buyer sentiment weakens

Seaborne manganese ore prices to China rose further in the week to Friday March 8, following fresh deals in the higher and lower-grade markets

But buyside sentiment softened due to falling alloy prices and announced production cuts by some smelters in China, while the port-side market remained relatively stable.

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Seaborne prices moving upwards

Both lower-grade and higher-grade prices moved up in the past seven days despite different dynamics playing out in each market.

Fastmarkets calculated its manganese ore high grade index, cif Tianjin at $4.42 per dry metric tonne unit (dmtu) on March 8, up by 4 cents from $4.38 per dmtu on March 1.

Fastmarkets’ weekly manganese ore index 37% Mn, cif Tianjin was calculated at $4.02 per dmtu on March 8, up by 5 cents from $3.97 per dmtu on March 1.

Lower stocks of semi-carbonated manganese ore at China main ports, as well as reduced supply from origins, have driven upward price momentum since late December 2023.

Meanwhile, sources say higher-grade manganese ore supply and stocks remained comparably higher, with the market following the uptick in the lower-grade market.

Fastmarkets’ assessments of manganese ore stocks at Qinzhou and Tianjin ports were in the range of 5.02-5.18 million tonnes on Monday March 11, compared to 5.03-5.53 million tonnes on March 4.

A port source told Fastmarkets, among the total manganese ore stocks in China, the inventories of high-grade manganese ore was around 1.3 million-1.4 million tonnes, compared to 1.1 million tonnes of semi-carbonated manganese ore inventories.

“The semi-carbonated ore stocks can support only 1.5 months of manganese alloy production in northern China, while higher grade ore stocks can support around three months of alloy production in the region,” the port source said

There was market chatter around logistic issues in Gabon and increased demand in India reducing high-grade supply to China.

But sell-side market participants said they had not noted greater demand for manganese ore from India, saying it was “business as usual” and there was no mass restocking happening.

A manganese ore producer source said they had heard of rail maintenance impacting supply out of Gabon, but only to a very limited extent.

Buyer sentiment in the pricing period weakened however, with alloy prices falling and proposed production cuts by manganese alloy smelters.

“I know three smelters in Ningxia province have halted output of manganese alloy and another one told us it may [conduct maintenance] at the facility if the weak alloy market persists,” a Chinese manganese trader said.

Freight prices fell significantly in the week to March 8.

Fastmarkets’ manganese ore index, 37% Mn, fob Port Elizabeth was calculated at $3.15 per dmtu on March 8, a week-on-week rise of 14 cents from $3.01 per dmtu.

Port-side prices edge down

Prices for high-grade manganese ore in the port-side market inched down while the low-grade market remained unchanged, with very few deals reported.

Fastmarkets’ calculated its manganese ore high grade port index, fot Tianjin China at 35.90 yuan ($4.99) per dmtu on March 8, down by 0.20 yuan per dmtu from 36.10 yuan per dmtu on March 1.

Fastmarkets’ weekly low-grade manganese ore port index, base 37% Mn, range 35-39%, fot Tianjin China stood at 34 yuan per dmtu on March 8, unchanged from March 1.

Sources said smelters were holding back on purchasing ore amid falling alloy prices and dwindling profit margins.

“There were almost no deals heard in the port-side market in the week,” a second Chinese manganese ore trader said on March 8.

Port sellers tentatively reduced the offer of manganese ore, while smelters were in no mood to negotiate, the second trader added.

Prices for silicon-manganese and ferro-manganese fell in the week, following reduced tender price from Hebei Steel and falling futures traded on the Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange.

Hebei Steel, one of the large steelmakers in China, on March 7 reduced silico-manganese tender price by 150 yuan to 6,300 yuan per tonne for March delivery.

Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment for silico-manganese 65% Mn min, max 17% Si, in-whs China was 5,800-6,000 yuan per tonne on March 8, down from 5,900-6,050 yuan per tonne on March 1.

And Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment for ferro-manganese 65% Mn min, max 7% C, in-whs China was 5,450-5,600 yuan per tonne on March 8, down from 5,500-5,700 yuan per tonne a week earlier.

Amid the weak alloy market, several smelters in Ningxia province were said to be conducting production cutbacks of manganese alloy, which decreased demand for smelters’ appetite to purchase manganese ore in the port market, according to sources.

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