Limited room for further price declines in Chinese tungsten market, participants say

Tungsten concentrates and ammonium paratungstate (APT) prices in China are expected to stabilize because market participants believe there is little room for price falls after witnessing steady declines in recent weeks.

Fastmarkets’ weekly price assessment for tungsten concentrate 65% WO3, in-whs China was 75,000-77,000 yuan ($10,618-10,902) per tonne on Wednesday April 15, down by 3,000 yuan per tonne or 3.8% from 78,000-80,000 yuan per tonne a week earlier.

Market sources told Fastmarkets that miners are reluctant to sell at current prices because they are already below their costs of production and participants therefore expect the concentrates price to remain within the current range in a slow market.

“It is difficult to source tungsten concentrates in the market. Mining companies would rather store the raw materials at warehouses than sell to the market at current prices,” an APT producer source said.

“Mining companies will incur losses for every tonne of concentrates sold, even if downstream APT refineries accept a price as high as 77,000 yuan per tonne,” a tungsten concentrates producer source said.

Large-scale tungsten companies usually prioritize the supply of raw materials (concentrates) to their own subsidiary refineries, leaving limited volumes available for the wider market. Meanwhile, small- and medium-sized miners are choosing to sit on the sidelines and wait for the price to improve before supplying the market.

In terms of demand, participants said they expect the market would be in a lull for the rest of April after several APT refineries, which are maintaining operations to fulfill long-term contracts, stocked up on raw materials in the early stages of the month.

China’s APT market is facing a similar situation.

Participants said prices for APT in China dropped to 115,000-118,000 yuan per tonne this week, from 118,000 yuan per tonne a week ago, which is making producers reluctant to sell.

“APT plants are stuck in an awkward situation. They can neither purchase cheap concentrates nor sell APT at higher prices. Thus, they prefer to store their products in warehouses, expecting the market to move up in late May or June when the Covid-19 pandemic in overseas markets might be brought under control,” a trader said.

Market sources said that the current APT price was lower than the production cost, considering raw materials prices.

A second APT producer source told Fastmarkets that the current cheap APT had attracted some inquiries after market participants realized the price was unlikely to continue to slide.

“I received several inquiries in the past week, some of them were from speculators, to whom I don’t want to sell. I prefer to sell to downstream users, whose demand remained sluggish,” the above producer source said.

With regard to the APT export market, sources said that spot trading remained muted. Only a few traders, who had signed long-term contracts with foreign customers, continued to deliver goods.

Fastmarkets assessed the price of tungsten APT 88.5% WO3 min, fob main ports China at $230-240 per metric tonne unit on Wednesday, unchanged for a fourth consecutive week.