Drop in Jan-May crude steel output in China drags down ferro-alloys markets

The decline in crude steel output in the first five months of 2024 dragged down Chinese ferro-alloys markets, including ferro-silicon and silico-manganese, sources told Fastmarkets on June 21

According to data released by China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on June 14, production of molten iron in January-May reached 361.13 million tonnes, a 3.7% drop on a yearly basis, and production of crude steel totaled 438.61 million tonnes, down by 1.4% in the same comparison.

Ferro-silicon

The drop in crude steel output put pressure on the Chinese ferro-silicon market because ferro-silicon is a raw material mainly used by the steelmaking industry.

The most-traded September ferro-silicon futures contract in the Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange closed at 7,118 yuan per tonne on June 20, down by 4.17% from 7,428 yuan per tonne on June 3.

“The declining ferro-silicon futures, to some extent, indicated market participants’ weak confidence given unimproved demand for ferro-silicon due to the lower crude steel output in the first five months,” a China-based ferro-silicon source said.

Fastmarkets’ price assessment for ferro-silicon, 75% Si min, in-whs China was 7,400-7,500 yuan ($1,019-1,033) per tonne on Wednesday June 19, narrowing downward by 200 yuan per tonne from 7,400-7,700 yuan per tonne a week earlier.

Fastmarkets’ price assessment for ferro-silicon, 75% Si min, export, fob China was $1,330-1,350 per tonne on Wednesday, narrowing downward by $30 per tonne from $1,330-1,380 per tonne a week earlier.

And Fastmarkets’ price assessment for ferro-silicon, 75% Si min, cif Japan – which covers Chinese material shipped to Japan – was $1,340-1,360 per tonne on Wednesday, also narrowing downward by $30 per tonne from $1,340-1,390 per tonne a week earlier.

Crude steel output in May was 92.86 million tonnes, which was up 2.7% year on year, according to NBS data.  

“A single month’s crude steel production increase cannot compensate for the first five months’ decline, which negatively impacted the upstream ferro-silicon market,” a China-based ferro-silicon trader said.

Silico-manganese

The silico-manganese price in the Chinese spot market also fell in the week to Friday with bearish sentiment linked to the drop in crude steel output.

Fastmarkets’ weekly assessment of silico-manganese 65% Mn min, max 17% Si, in-whs China was 7,600-7,900 yuan per tonne on Friday, narrowing down from 7,600-8,000 yuan per tonne on June 14.

“The sentiment cooled in both futures and physical market of silico-manganese after January-May crude steel data was released, especially with the reduction in rebar output,” said one manganese alloy smelter.

Silico-manganese is added during the steelmaking process for desulfurization and deoxidization purposes.

In addition to the reduced demand from the steel industry, high supplies of silico-manganese further affected the market, according to market participants.

A silico-manganese trader source told Fastmarkets that Chinese silico-manganese output in May was around 810,000 tonnes, compared to 750,000 tonnes in April.

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