Manganese ore prices nudge up despite high inventories

Seaborne manganese ore prices in China ticked upward in the week to Friday December 2 but doubt remained whether this was an indication of an upward trend or just a short-term shift

Fastmarkets’ manganese ore index, 37% Mn, cif Tianjin, was $4.09 per dry metric tonne (dmtu) on Friday, up by 1 cent per dmtu (0.25%) from $4.08 per dmtu on November 25.

The corresponding manganese ore index, 37% Mn, fob Port Elizabeth, was $3.35 per dmtu on Friday, up by 2 cents per dmtu (0.60%) from $3.33 per dmtu.

And the manganese ore index, 44% Mn, cif Tianjin, was $4.61 per dmtu on December 2, up by 5 cents per dmtu (1.10%) from $4.56 per dmtu.

Producers questioned whether the increase in prices was an indication of a shift in demand based on an increase in consumption rates in China.

“There does seem to be more buyer interest at the moment but I am not sure if it is driven by sentiment or fundamentals,” a producer source said.

“The market is a little more positive – and we can see prices have been raised,” a second producer source said. “But I suspect it is more of a short-term blip rather than an upward trend.”

The presence of high volumes of inventory in China will weaken demand for seaborne material, according to market participants.

“It seems crazy for prices to really rise when stocks are so high in China,” a trader source said.

Fastmarkets assessed inventories at 5.61-6.18 million tonnes in the Chinese ports of Qinzhou and Tianjin on December 5. While this is down by 210,000-250,000 tonnes from the previous week, it remains historically high.

Port-side market gains amid smelter restocking

Fastmarkets’ calculation of the manganese ore port index, base 44% Mn, range 42-48%, fot Tianjin, China, was 42.90 yuan ($6.11) per dmtu on Friday, up by 0.10 yuan (0.23%) from the previous assessment, a fourth consecutive weekly gain.

The manganese ore port index, base 37% Mn, range 35-39%, fot Tianjin, China, was 34.10 yuan per dmtu on Friday, up by 0.50 yuan (1.49%) from 33.60 yuan per dmtu a week earlier.

Smelters have increased their buying appetite in the run-up to the end of 2022, which continued to support the manganese ore market, according to sources.

Meanwhile, steel mills started their latest round of alloy tenders by increasing the volumes they wanted to buy in comparison with the previous month.

Major Chinese steelmaker Hebei Iron & Steel has started purchasing silico-manganese for December at 7,600 yuan ($1,083) per tonne for 20,600 tonnes of silico-manganese, up by 150 yuan per tonne and by 2,200 tonnes from the corresponding figures for November.

This increase in requested tonnages improved sentiment in the silico-manganese market, although prices did not move over the week, according to sources.

In any case, Fastmarkets’ price assessment for silico-manganese, 65% Mn min, max 17% Si, in-whs China, was 7,000-7,150 yuan per tonne on December 2, unchanged from the previous assessment.

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