GLOBAL CHROME WRAP: Chinese ore, alloy prices still rising; European market strengthens

Ferro-chrome and chrome ore prices rose again in China on Friday July 7, following steep hikes in stainless steel mills’ tender prices, while Europe’s alloy market recovered some recent losses.

• Ore and alloy prices rise in China
• Mills’ tender prices boost contact price assessment
• European market claws back some recent losses
• Japan and South Korea prices hold for third consecutive week
• US gradual price decline continues

Chinese prices rise 
Metal Bulletin’s price quotation for domestic Chinese ferro-chrome on contracts rose to 6,700-7,000 yuan ($984-1,028) per tonne on Friday, compared with 5,300-6,300 yuan per tonne previously. 

Metal Bulletin assessed spot domestic Chinese ferro-chrome prices at 7,000-7,500 yuan per tonne, up 100 yuan per tonne at the high end of its trading range.

Earlier in the week, Baosteel settled its high-carbon ferro-chrome tender price for July at 7,000 yuan per tonne, up 1,500 yuan from its June level. 

Tsingshan Group and Jiuquan Steel raised their tenders to 7,000 yuan and 6,800 yuan per tonne, respectively, including delivery.

Import prices followed domestic prices higher as international suppliers to China raised their offers.

Metal Bulletin’s charge chrome index, cif Shanghai, which tracks South African cargoes, rose by 5 cents to 85 cents per lb. 

“Given increased domestic prices, overseas ferro-chrome suppliers are also standing firm with their offers to China,” a mill source told Metal Bulletin

Ore prices also continued to edge higher. Metal Bulletin’s UG2 chrome ore index, cif China rose to $171 per tonne on Friday July 7, up from $169 per tonne the previous week. 
Metal Bulletin’s price quotation for Turkish lumpy chrome ore (40-42% Cr) rose to $250-270 per tonne, cfr China. 

Sentiment in Asia boosted by Chinese market
Elsewhere in Asia, for the third consecutive week, prices held amid thin trading even as market participants agreed sentiment is improving. 

Metal Bulletin assessed spot high-carbon ferro-chrome, cif Japan at $0.85-0.90 per lb cif on Thursday July 6. 

“The Japanese market is quiet this week but I don’t think prices will go down given the strong market in China,” a trader in Tokyo told Metal Bulletin. 

Prices for spot high carbon ferro-chrome, cif South Korea rolled over at $0.80-0.85 per lb on July 6. 

“I feel the price is firming up, although I have not heard any deals this week,” a major trader in Seoul said.

European prices strengthen, US price ticks down
In Europe, the ferro-chrome market recovered ground above the top of its trading range, after dropping during the previous week.

Metal Bulletin’s price quotation for high-carbon ferro-chrome came in at $1.10-1.18 per lb, delivered in Europe, on Friday, compared with $1.10-1.15 per lb previously.

Sources said they believe prices have hit a floor after steady losses through the past quarter.

Rising chrome ore prices, limited stainless steel scrap availability and higher tender prices from Chinese stainless steelmakers were cited as supportive factors for European alloy prices.

“Stock levels of high quality material in Europe are well-balanced and traders are trying to buy high quality material to blend with lower-priced, lower quality material from India, Oman and Pakistan to meet third-quarter requirements from end-users,” one supplier told Metal Bulletin.

In the USA, where the smaller spot market is slower to react than those in other regions, prices continued to inch lower, catching up with the slide of recent weeks.

Spot prices for high-carbon ferro-chrome, in-warehouse Pittsburgh slipped to $1.38-1.45 per lb on July 6, down 1 cent on the low end from $1.39-$1.45 per lb previously, according to Metal Bulletin sister publication AMM’s latest assessment. 

While inactivity and a significantly consolidated supply has limited the price decline in the USA, some market participants said they doubted the premium to other regions could last much longer.

“Prices are still holding on either side of $1.40 [per lb], but how much longer will that last?” A supplier source told AMM.

“If you can buy in Rotterdam at $1.10, it only takes a few weeks to get over here, and you could sell easily well below the current range. The gap isn’t sustainable; traders will start to make this move soon if they haven’t already,” the source added.

Still, others noted the rebound elsewhere, which could preclude significant correction.

“In terms of pricing, I don’t see any changes and since China started moving back up; we may not end up seeing a downward correction,” a second supplier source told AMM.