GLOBAL TUNGSTEN WRAP: Tungsten prices under pressure; Chinese holiday thins trade

Chinese tungsten concentrate prices came under pressure last week because of weak buying interest, with exporters of ammonium paratungstate (APT) and ferro-tungsten adjusting their offers downward.

  • More miners are expected to restart operations, which depressed tungsten concentrate prices in China
  • Buying interest in APT decreased
  • Chinese holiday slows down the tungsten market in both China and Europe

The Chinese tungsten market was slow over the past week, with prices down and trading activity limited while Chinese market participants were absent for the Tomb Sweeping Holiday on Thursday-Friday April 5-6.

Metal Bulletin assessed the price of China-origin tungsten concentrate, 65% WO3, at 110,000-111,000 yuan ($17,419-17,577) per tonne on April 4, narrowing downward by 1,000 yuan from one week before.

Expectations that output of tungsten concentrate will increase in April, after some miners restart operations that were halted during two sessions in March, are depressing the market. Consumption in ammonium paratungstate (APT) smelters is low as a result of reduced operating rates arising from China’s stringent controls on pollutant emissions.

“One big buyer [an APT smelter] bid 109,000 yuan [per tonne] for a cargo, but no deals have been heard at this price,” one concentrate trader told Metal Bulletin. With the Tomb Sweeping holiday approaching, he said early last week, offers were thin.

Metal Bulletin’s price assessment for APT, fob China, on April 4 was $322-326 per metric tonne unit (mtu), down from $325-328 one week before.

Exporters lowered their offer prices because of a fall in the cost of raw materials and decreasing buying interest in the overseas market.

“I am quoting [a price of] $323-326 [per tonne], lower than $325-328 a week ago, and [did] not close any deals until [April 4],” one major APT exporter said.

Metal Bulletin’s benchmark cif Rotterdam price for APT also moved down by 0.6% to $325-330 per mtu on April 6.

“There is pressure in the market and prices are softening. Availability is quite good although demand is not great,” a trader in Europe said.

There was limited activity in the spot market in the absence of Chinese traders, market participants noted.

“The highest prices are already behind us. Next week, we might see prices going down even further,” one market participant said.

“I’m already hearing offers around $320 [per tonne] and [I am] waiting for prices to go down even further. Concentrates prices are also going down, and more material is becoming available,” a second market participant said.

“[APT prices] went up too fast due to [the timing of the] Chinese New Year and the Chinese [Communist] Party [national] congress, and now we’re in for a correction,” he added.

Meanwhile, Metal Bulletin’s fob China price assessment for ferro-tungsten was unchanged on April 4 from the week before, at $41.50-43.50 per tonne. Sources reported that the export market had been quiet for two weeks.

Metal Bulletin’s in-warehouse Rotterdam ferro-tungsten price fell to $40.00-41.50 per kg on April 6, down by 0.6% from the assessment on April 4.

“The ferro-tungsten market is very illiquid at the moment and the spot market is not very active,” a second trader said. “There are still offers at $42 [per kg] but you are not able to achieve any sales at that price any more. People are just waiting for the next move [in the market].”

Very little spot business was transacted last week, with some offers heard outside of the price range.

“There is a lot of tungsten scrap available in the market,” a third trader said, “which is also pushing prices down.”