GLOBAL MANGANESE WRAP: Ore grades diverge; Chinese spot and futures alloys prices weaken

High-grade manganese ore prices clawed back some of their recent losses in China on Tuesday April 18, while low-grade material weakened slightly in line with falling spot and futures manganese alloys prices.

  • High-grade ore prices recovered losses while low-grade prices dipped
  • Miners kept seaborne prices stable as port offers dropped
  • Chinese spot and futures silico-manganese prices weakened
  • Hebei Steel’s silica-manganese bid price rose for April
  • Manganese alloy prices held in Europe, India and USA

Ore prices on divergent paths

Metal Bulletin’s 44% manganese ore index cif Tianjin
rose 3 cents to $5.18 per dmtu after dropping 6 cents on April 7.

Metal Bulletin’s 37% manganese ore index fob Port Elizabeth dropped 3 cents to $3.88 per dmtu, equivalent to $4.44 per dmtu on a cif basis.

This is the first time since March 3 that low-grade prices have failed to rise.

Suppliers in China cut offers for spot manganese ore ports but overseas miners - some of which are understood to be sold out for April and May - held seaborne prices steady, according to market participants.

“We are seeing an incredible amount of activity; increased discussions and buying,” a manganese ore miner said.

Most sources outside China regarded the market as steady but acknowledged that the weak alloy market was likely to put downward pressure on ore prices.

“Prices fell very sharply at the start of the year and then increased very quickly. It seems like now things are stabilising,” a second miner said.

Chinese alloy prices slide

China’s manganese alloy market has been polarised amid lengthy negotiations between China’s largest carbon steel mill and alloy smelters.

The discussions, centred on the gap between the mill’s monthly silico-manganese purchase price and spot prices, led to a rise in the monthly purchase price, as spot and futures prices fell.

Hebei Steel raised its April price for silico-manganese to 6,800-6,900 yuan ($988-1,002) per tonne from 5,200 yuan for March.

Spot prices for silico-manganese in warehouse China dropped to 6,600-6,900 yuan per tonne from 6,800-7,000 yuan per tonne previously.

The most traded silico-manganese futures contract on the Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange ended last week at 5,808 yuan per tonne, down 16% this month.

A spokesman for Hebei this week appealed for long-term co-operation between smelters and mills while smelters weighed up the benefits of selling to the exchange, which offers better payment conditions and, until recently, higher prices.

“The futures price further moved down this week; now the futures price is much lower than spot levels, adding downward pressure to the spot market,” a source at a manganese alloy smelter said.

Chinese ferro-manganese prices dropped to 6,300-6,500 yuan per tonne in warehouse China from 6,600-6,800 yuan previously.

US, European alloys remain flat

Manganese alloy prices flatlined in all other regions.

Spot silico-manganese prices held at 65-68 cents per lb in warehouse Pittsburgh on April 13, according to Metal Bulletin sister publication AMM’s latest assessment.

“The market was incredibly quiet this week as we head into the holidays,” a supplier source told AMM. “Most people are locked in for the second quarter at this point and there wasn’t much spot business; not enough activity to alter pricing.”

Spot prices for high-carbon ferro-manganese held steady at $1,380-1,430 per long ton in warehouse Pittsburgh on April 13, according to AMM’s latest assessment.

A tight spot market for the material has supported pricing, market participants indicated.

“There’s not enough material around for suppliers to feel any pressure to sell lower,” a second supplier source told AMM.

The tightness in the market is likely to continue because the volatile manganese ore market has made traders hesitant to take additional long-term positions.

“The volatility of the ore market has the market proceeding very cautiously at this point,” a third supplier source told AMM. “Unless you are a producer or an agent for a producer, I don’t see anyone bringing in extra material in these conditions.”

Prices for medium carbon ferro-manganese held at $1.08-1.14 per lb fob Pittsburgh on April 13.

Indian silico-manganese prices held at $1,000-1,100 per tonne fob on April 14.

European silico-manganese prices held at €1,000-1,115 ($1,063-1,185) per tonne on a delivered basis on April 14.

High-carbon ferro-manganese prices held at €1,200-1,280 per tonne on a delivered basis in Europe, also on April 14.

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