Prices

By IM Staff
Published: Monday, 08 July 2019

IM’s full price listing is only published online. If you have any comments or concerns, or wish to discuss any of the grades or prices listed, please contact Davide Ghilotti, Fastmarkets IM editor davide.ghilotti@fastmarkets.com

Magnesia

China’s magnesia export prices remain soft on ample stocks

Carrie Shi 

Slow buying has continued to weigh on the Chinese magnesia export market, with prices still under pressure amid increasing stocks, according to sources.

The fused magnesia market showed no improvement this week. The addition of new flotation production lines has caused an increase in stocks in the market and some producers have stopped production due to thin profit margins.

"There are about 3 million tonnes of new flotation production lines in Liaoning province since the government [implemented] mining restrictions, and increasing stocks of fused magnesia have continued to put pressure on prices," a producer told Fastmarkets.

Liaoning’s government has promoted the sustained growth and transformation of the magnesia industry, and has enforced strict mining controls since 2018 – first, prohibiting the extraction of magnesite (the raw material for magnesia) with the use of explosives and then stopping all magnesite mining following environmental inspections.

Some major producers received limited explosives earlier this year for rock stripping use only. The lack of magnesite has seen more flotation lines brought into production, especially for fused magnesia.

Fastmarkets’ price assessment for fused magnesia 97% MgO (Ca:Si 2:1) fob China remained at $850-950 per tonne on June 18, unchanged from a week earlier.

Domestic caustic calcined magnesia prices also weakened in the slow market, but were supported by steady demand from the chemicals sector. Prices remained in a large range and export prices for good-quality material showed only limited fluctuations.

Fastmarkets’ price assessment for magnesia, calcined, 90-92% MgO, fob China was unchanged at $180-220 per tonne on June 18.

Magnesia, fused, 97% MgO, Ca:Si 2:1, lump, fob China, $/tonne 
Prices1  
Source: Fastmarkets

Iodine

Iodine spot price range at widest since 2015

Michael Greenfield

The range in Fastmarkets’ latest assessed spot prices for iodine moved to $3.25 per kg on Thursday June 13 - a gap not been seen since December 2015 - highlighting the pace at which the price increases have been occurring this year.

Fastmarkets IM’s latest price assessment for iodine, min 99.5%, spot was $27.75-31 per kg on June 13, down from $28.50-31 per kg the previous week. 

The market has mostly been on an uptrend this year, but in the week to June 13 Fastmarkets IM learned that Japanese material was being bought at prices below the previous range. 

Iodine spot prices had been moving up for almost two years, and in 2019 the rate of those price rises has increased.

Iodine consumers broadly believe the increases are being spearheaded by market leader SQM, which had been anticipating the return of previously idled production to the market. 

Using the midpoint of the range, since the turn of the year the price has moved up by almost $3 per kg to $29.38, from $26.50. 

In contrast, the price increased by just $1 per kg in the last six months of 2018.

"What could be driving the price increases, is that other Chilean producers have not increased production as predicted," one source told Fastmarkets IM.  

As the result of a price war, which bottomed out at under $20 per kg just under two years ago, several Chilean producers reduced their capacity utilization rates. 

The source added that SQM could see this as an opportunity to push prices, "given that the competition isn’t there."

And the range has been consistently widening since December, having stayed at between $1-1.5 per kg through most of last year.

Chilean producers have continued to test customers with price increases, while Japanese iodine sellers have been hesitant about matching those increases in favor of maintaining good business relationships with customers.

The fact that iodine producers - predominantly in Chile, which supplies the majority of the world’s iodine - have reported that the market is under-supplied and that they hold little or no inventories, has underpinned the iodine spot price increases.

Iodine, min 99.5%, spot, $/kg 
Prices2  
Source: Fastmarkets

Metspar

Metspar prices continue to trade above acid-grade fluorspar

Michael Greenfield, Carrie Shi 

Metspar was trading at higher levels than acid-grade material in the week to Thursday June 13, market participants said, but Fastmakets IM’s fluorspar price assessments remained unchanged due to a lack of confirmation from buyers.

Fastmarkets IM’s fob China fluorspar prices remained unchanged this week but sources said that 90% metspar was still being sold at higher prices than the higher-purity acidspar.

Typically, acidspar prices are higher than metspar because the material needs to go through additional processing to reach higher purity - but this trend has been challenged recently due to high demand for stainless steel.

But sellers told Fastmarkets IM, that the workable price for 90% CaF2 purity metspar was at, or close to, $500 per tonne, but due to a lack of information from the buy side of the market the price assessment was unchanged.

This left Fastmarkets IM’s price assessment for metspar, min 90%, CaF2, fob China at $460-500 per tonne on June 13, flat week on week but up from $430-460 per tonne on May 23.

Some market sources indicated that acidspar was available at $460 per tonne, while one was even below the bottom end of Fastmarkets IM’s price range.

Other sources said that material was available at $500 per tonne or higher, but because the majority of the price data collected was within the existing range, the price did not move this week.

Fastmarkets IM’s price assessment for acidspar, 97% CaF2, wet filtercake, fob China was $460-520 per tonne on June 13 - also flat from the previous week, but up from $450-500 per tonne when the price was last assessed on May 23.

Acid heating up

The hydrofluoric acid (HF) market improved in China with higher prices supporting the month-on-month rise in acidspar prices, market participants said.

Many acidspar suppliers increased fluorspar acidspar prices due to both higher HF prices and tight supplies in recent weeks.

"HF prices stopped falling and showed a small increase with most HF producers selling at 11,500-12,000 yuan ($1,660-1,733) per tonne in China compared with around 11,000 yuan per tonne a few weeks ago," a fluorspar producer told Fastmarkets IM.

"Current supply remains tight and we increased our export prices to above $460 per tonne for acidspar following higher domestic prices, [although] overseas buyers [have remained] cautious... and haven’t placed any orders for the moment," another producer said.

However, the downstream refrigerants market showed some limited improvement after a sluggish winter although there was no significant increase in demand.

The air-conditioner and refrigerator sectors continued to grow slowly, which did not lend much support to HF and fluorspar acidspar prices, according to one source.

Statistics from the China Bureau of Statistics, showed that air-conditioner output in May was 21.91 million units, up 6.4% compared with May 2018. 

And from January to May total output was up 11% compared with the same period in 2018 at 97.46 million units. Output increased by 22.3% year on year in March and by 15.4% in April.

Refrigerator output in China was 7.78 million in May, up 0.6% year-on-year. Total output from January to May was up 3.7% year-on-year to 34.61 million.

Acidspar, 97% CaF2, Wet Filtercake, fob, China [$/tonne] 
Prices3  
Source: Fastmarkets 


Acidspar

PRICING NOTICE: Discontinuation of acidspar cif US price

After a consultation period, Fastmarkets IM has discontinued the acidspar cif US price on the basis that it is no longer representative of the market and there is a lack liquidity due to the market being contract-driven.

As a proxy, Fastmarkets IM recommends using our fob China acidspar price and applying the appropriate premium to reflect the cost of logistics.

Fastmarkets IM remains committed to pricing the fluorspar market where sufficient liquidity can be identified.

If you have any comments on the discontinuation of this price please contact Michael Greenfield by email at: pricing@fastmarkets.com. Please add the subject heading 'FAO: Michael Greenfield re: acidspar cif US’.

All historical data relating to this price prior to its suspension will remain available in the pricing section of the Fastmarkets IM website.

To see all Fastmarkets’ pricing methodology and specification documents, please go tohttps://www.indmin.com/methodology.html

BFA

Spreads in brown fused alumina prices increase as market mulls direction

Davide Ghilotti 

Price differentials in refractory grade brown fused alumina (BFA) increased in the two weeks to Thursday June 13 due to reports on availability conflicting with others about weak demand from consuming markets.

Fastmarkets IM assessed the price of refractory grade BFA, sized, at $750-800 per tonne fob China on June 13, compared with $780-800 per tonne a fortnight earlier

Meanwhile, Fastmarkets IM’s price assessment for abrasive grade BFA, sized, remained unchanged on June 13 at $870-910 per tonne fob China.

The wider spread in the refractory grade BFA assessment was related to business concluded at the new low end of the range, as well as a number of offers at $750-760.

Some buyers are still booking volumes at the upper end of the range (with some consumers doing so directly, rather than via intermediaries), which therefore remained unchanged.

The price differential is symptomatic of a mixed scenario on the market, where low demand from refractories producers is affecting trading volumes, while concerns over the long-term availability of Chinese material persists and is affecting sentiment.

The evolution of the US dollar/Chinese yuan exchange rate over the past month has also played a part in this, because the cheaper yuan allowed sellers to cut their dollar-based offers while maintaining the margin in yuan terms.

Fastmarkets IM’s price assessment for refractory grade white fused alumina (WFA) was unchanged at €750-850 per tonne cif Europe on June 13, after a previous increase from €730-850 per tonne on May 16.

Resilient BFA prices

While other raw materials for refractory applications saw a price decline – as has been the case with magnesia and, to a lesser extent, graphite - fused alumina prices have been extremely stable throughout the first half of 2019, mostly staying at the high levels reached last year.

Market participants said this was partially related to ongoing production issues in the main producing provinces of Henan and Shanxi, which are preventing output from rebounding properly.

The authorities imposed further inspections and closures following the chemical leakage incident at Xinfa’s Jiaokou alumina refinery in Shanxi in May, which led to the closure of the plant. 

The event preceded subsequent reports of an explosion at an abrasive plant in Dengfeng in Henan, in early June, and prompted local authorities to stop production in the area pending further checks.

Bauxite mining in Shanxi remains restricted, local sources told Fastmarkets, which in turn is affecting the availability of bauxite feedstock for alumina plants. 

"[While for] magnesia, the market is aware of an improved situation in production and high inventories, this doesn’t seem to be that clear for fused alumina," one supplier said. "So while the [magnesia] price is gradually climbing down [from its previous heights], fused alumina [prices are] more resilient."


Chromite

Wet bulk foundry chromite price dips on weak demand

Davide Ghilotti 

Prices for wet bulk foundry grade chromite ticked down in the first week of June after availability of material throughout the supply chain compounded weak demand from users.

Production rates at established producers have been higher year on year, market participants told Fastmarkets, while new producers are keen to push their own volumes adding to already ample supplies.

The demand side remains subdued, however.

According to one large buyer, some users committed to higher-than-average purchasing in previous periods and are still sitting on some of those stocks. Lower economic activity in main industrial sectors in Europe, such as car manufacturing, has exacerbated this situation, leading to lower orders activity.

Others regions may be performing slightly better, although there is no obvious pattern to this, sources said. Economic activity has held up so far in North America, as it has in some parts of Asia other than China. This is all reflecting on localized demand flows.

As a result, Fastmarkets IM’s wet bulk chromite price weakened in the days up to June 4, while the price assessment for dried and bagged chromite was stable.

Fastmarkets’ price assessment for foundry-grade chromite, 46% Cr2O3, wet bulk, dropped to $290-300 per tonne fob South Africa on Tuesday June 4, compared with $300-310 per tonne a week earlier.

One large volume sale was reported slightly below the latest price range, although the large tonnage involved and the destination of the material are thought to have played a part in securing a lower fob quote.

The price spread in wet bulk material has shrunk significantly compared with earlier this year due to sellers competing for what little business opportunities are available.

Meanwhile, Fastmarkets IM’s price assessment for foundry-grade chromite, 46% Cr2O3, dried and bagged, was unchanged week on week at $350-380 per tonne fob South Africa on June 4.

Some data points were reported both above and below the current price range, while no satisfactory evidence was available of a tangible move either way or of a widening of the price range during the latest assessment window.

That said, spreads in dried and bagged have been quite elastic since the beginning of the year, and remain so.

The dried and bagged market is also normally more prone to wider spreads than wet bulk, due to the multitude of destinations, consumer types and the difference in volumes users require.

As is the case for the wet bulk price, Fastmarkets IM’s dried and bagged price assessment looks at material sold at origin. Delivered prices to consumers can vary depending on how many additional steps in the supply chain there are between the origin and the final users.

In the dried market, these include exact geographical destination, logistics, additional drying costs where required (in case of third party driers involved), and intermediaries moving the material, such as traders or distributors.

Bauxite

Bauxite prices weaken slightly but supply concerns persist

Davide Ghilotti 

Refractory-grade bauxite prices have weakened slightly in the two weeks to Thursday June 13 amid weak demand from consuming markets, although concerns over production capacity in China remained.

A number of bauxite buyers and distributors were surprised by how resilient bauxite prices have been this year to date, despite an evident slowdown in demand, sources told Fastmarkets IM.

"I would have expected a sharper drop in prices, considering that trading is really thin these days," one importer said. "Instead, you see only a few dollars here and there, but no meaningful change yet."

Fastmarkets IM’s price assessment for refractory grade bauxite, 85%, fob Xingang was $390-410 per tonne fob on June 13, compared with $400-420 per tonne on May 30.

Fastmarkets IM assessed the  price of refractory grade bauxite, 86%, at $410-430 per tonne fob Xingang on June 13, compared with $420-440 per tonne on May 30.

Similarly, Fastmarkets IM assessed the price of refractory grade bauxite, 87%, at $440-460 per tonne fob Xingang on June 13, against $450-470 per tonne two weeks earlier.

Fastmarkets IM’s price assessment for bauxite, 88%, was $460-480 per tonne fob Xingang compared with $470-490 per tonne on May 30.

"Some material is now available [at cheaper prices] from producers that are desperate to sell to generate immediate cashflow," a seller said.

Market participants offered differing views on the state of the current availability of bauxite from China’s main producers.

Ongoing restrictions on the mining side across Shanxi province have reduced the production of raw bauxite for calcination and, in turn, affected the supply of calcined bauxite. Fused alumina producers in Shanxi and in nearby Henan province have identified lower feedstock sourcing as an issue.

A recent two-to-three-week-long temporary shutdown was imposed in China from mid-May to ensure that environmental protection measures are being properly implemented, which disrupted calcination plants.

A number of sources, both in China and in consumer markets, lamented the scarcity of both raw bauxite and calcined bauxite, with high-purity grades such as 87% and 88% particularly affected.

Concurrently, other suppliers claimed that availability has not been an issue.

One large-volume trader in Europe said he had been able to source all grades of material so 

far and from multiple producers, adding that he foresaw no change to this pattern in the near term.

There have, however, been some reports of quality issues regarding high impurity levels in the material, according to one trader and two consumers.

It is also possible that, due to the low demand at the start of June, all existing orders could be easily fulfilled; but if a high-demand scenario emerges similar to this time last year, the production issues would affect the market more and would have a clear impact on prices.

Such concerns over potential supply shortages drove the price rally in bauxite in the second half of 2017 that continued into 2018. 

Falling industrial production in Europe has taken a toll on consumption of refractories and foundry products. Car manufacturing, in particular, has been weighing on overall manufacturing output, with declines of more than 10% in the sector in the first half of 2019.

This compounds a previous situation where consumers kept higher than average stocks of refractory products after the short-term shortages of 2018 and 2017.

"I didn’t overstock, but all of my customers did. We are finally seeing now how this is affecting order volumes," one refractories producer told Fastmarkets IM during a recent visit.


Fastmarkets Spodumene min 5-6% Li2O, cif China, $/tonne
Prices4  
Source: Fastmarkets


Lithium

Lithium spodumene, global contract prices down

Martim Facada 

Lithium spodumene prices have fallen by 2.3% in Asia from April-May, reacting to declines in lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices in China, against which the lithium spodumene price is calculated.

Fastmarkets’ monthly assessment of the contract price for spodumene (minimum 5-6% Li2O) was at $600-670 per tonne cif China on Wednesday May 29, down from $600-700 per tonne on April 24.

The increased availability of cheaper-priced battery-grade lithium compounds in the market, a deceleration in consumption and slow adoption of state-of-the-art nickel-rich cathodes are at the core of the currently low lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices in China - the world’s single-largest consumer of lithium spodumene.

Fastmarkets’ assessment of the spot price for battery-grade lithium carbonate (minimum 99.5% ex-works China) stood at 74,000-78,000 yuan ($10,702-11,281) on May 30, unchanged from the previous week but down by 55.3% from 165,000-175,000 yuan per tonne on December 21, 2017.

The battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (minimum 56.5% LiOH.H2O) spot price was assessed at 83,000-88,000 yuan per tonne on May 30, also unchanged week on week but down by 42% from 145,000-150,000 yuan per tonne on the same date in 2017. 

"Our spodumene prices have decreased month on month due to the lower lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices in China... Converters in China have low price expectations, and having to sell carbonate or hydroxide in China at lower prices pushed them to reduce their costs for raw material," a spodumene producer told Fastmarkets.

"Spodumene prices are lower and most of [the] transactions on a cif China basis are somewhere between $620 and 650 per tonne," a trader told Fastmarkets.

Global lithium contract prices down

Falling lithium prices have also affected global battery-grade lithium contract prices, which lag the price moves in China.

This can be seen across the first-quarter results of legacy lithium producers Tianqi, Albemarle, SQM and Livent. 

Although the lithium contract price takes time to catch up with market trends in China, due to the timing of contract negotiations - which can span from three months to a year - these prices tend to move more slowly.

One-on-one negotiations and the need to qualify material, plus the smaller volumes sourced by consumers outside the Asian region, weigh heavily in the contract price negotiations.

Fastmarkets assessed the battery-grade lithium carbonate (minimum 99.5% Li2CO3) contract price on a cif China, Japan and Korea basis at $10.50-13 per kg on May 29, down by 6% from $11-14 per kg on April 24; and the battery-grade lithium hydroxide (minimum 56.5% LiOH.H2O)contract price cif China, Japan and Korea was assessed at $14-15.50 per kg, down by 3.3% from $14.50-16 per kg in the same comparison.

"Prices to China, Japan and South Korea have dropped since the beginning of the year and are set to keep falling due to the lower prices in China," a cathode producer told Fastmarkets. 

"We buy material at very competitive prices from China and our suppliers from outside China had to decrease their prices, otherwise we would procure more material from China," he added.

"There is, indeed, pressure by consumers in the region of China, Japan and South Korea for us to decrease our prices," a lithium producer said. 

"Prices are set to fall further in the coming months but not much from the prices we are seeing today," he added. 

In Europe and United States, contract prices also fell. 

The battery-grade lithium carbonate (minimum 99.5% Li2CO3) contract price on a ddp Europe and US basis moved down by 5.4% to $12-14.50 per kg on May 29 from $12.50-15.50 per kg on April 24.
At the same time, the battery-grade lithium hydroxide (minimum 56.5% LiOH.H2O) contract price fell by 2.6% to $14-16 per kg ddp Europe and US on May 29 from $14.80-16 per kg on April 24.

"Lithium prices in Europe and [the] US are catching up at a slower pace with the Asian market and this is set to be the trend for most of 2019," a second producer told Fastmarkets. "We might be close to the bottom in the coming two months."

Fastmarkets Spodumene min 5-6% Li2O, cif China, $/tonne
Prices5  
Source: Fastmarkets 


Lithium

Lithium spodumene prices down 2.8% in June vs May

Martim Facada 

Lithium spodumene prices declined by 2.8% in Asia over June, reflecting a slowdown in demand and low lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices in China.

Fastmarkets’ monthly assessment of the contract price for spodumene (minimum 5-6% Li2O)was at $585-650 per tonne cif China on Wednesday June 26, down from $600-670 per tonne on May 29.

Last week, Pilbara Minerals said that it would restrict its lithium production in June and July due to reduced demand in the second quarter of 2019 caused by delays in the commissioning of chemical conversion capacity by the company’s key offtake partners in China.

Lower demand for lithium chemicals than previously expected is also weighing on spodumene prices, market participants told Fastmarkets.

"There is currently a bottleneck on cell-battery manufacturing in China and Japan causing lower levels of production expected throughout 2019," a lithium spodumene producer told Fastmarkets. "We did not expect this but it is squeezing the supply chain from top to bottom therefore pushing lithium spodumene prices down."

Low lithium carbonate and hydroxide prices in China have also helped push lithium spodumene prices down gradually over the course of the past year. In recent years, lithium spodumene has become an important source of feedstock to produce lithium chemicals in China.

Fastmarkets’ assessment of the spot price for battery-grade lithium carbonate (minimum 99.5% ex-works China) stood at 70,000-77,000 yuan ($10,175- 11,193) per tonne on June 20, unchanged from the prior week but down by 56.8% from 165,000-175,000 yuan per tonne on December 21, 2017.

The battery-grade lithium hydroxide monohydrate (minimum 56.5% LiOH.H2O) spot price was assessed at 80,000-85,000 yuan per tonne on June 20, down by 44% from an assessed price of 145,000-150,000 yuan per tonne on December 21, 2017.

"Lower lithium prices in China have been influencing our lithium spodumene prices over the course of the past year, causing at some point in time last year to see some lithium converters in China to default on their lithium spodumene contracts," a lithium spodumene producer told Fastmarkets.

The current sluggish market is also causing some lithium spodumene miners to sell their material at lower prices to boost their cash flow. Although, this is said to be a temporary measure due to the low lithium prices in China at present.

At the same time, lithium spodumene miners in Australia are also said to be working at improving efficiencies while ramping up their projects. This is set to make some of these projects more resilient to the periods of low lithium prices in the coming years.


Antimony Trioxide

Antimony trioxide prices dip on cautious buying amid lack of clear market direction

Weakness was seen in some of the Fastmarkets IM antimony trioxide price assessments in the week to Tuesday June 18, with market participants describing trading activity as limited.

Fastmarkets IM’s price assessment for seaborne antimony trioxide (Sb2O3) in China stood at $5,400-5,500 per tonne fob China on June 18, unchanged from the previous week, with the market relatively stable in a slow trading environment.

"The market is very quiet. I have barely had any enquiries," a producer source said.

Due the slow demand, some lower offers were seen across the market, although market participants do not anticipate any further price falls. 

Fastmarkets IM’s price assessment for seaborne antimony trioxide, min 99.5% cif Antwerp/Rotterdam was $5,500-5,600 per tonne on June 18, widening down from $5,550-5,600 per tonne, a week earlier. 

Meanwhile, Fastmarkets IM’s price assessment for domestic antimony trioxide, in-warehouse Antwerp/Rotterdam was steady week on week on June 18 at €5.75-5.85 per kg.

After the Chinese antimony association called for production cuts to stem price falls, some expected the market to find a floor. However, it is not clear if this has happened, with higher offers from producers and traders clashing with lower bids from consumers.

"One would expect that the market [to] stabilize but prices are still all over the place," a European trader said. "In Rotterdam, we managed to sell small lots [of up to 5 tonnes] at around €5.8 per kg, but buyers are still bidding [lower]; we prefer to sell just small volumes at higher prices [rather than lose] money cutting offers."

With cautious buying and some traders in a 'wait-and-see’ mode before taking positions, market participants do not see any clear direction.

Meanwhile, Fastmarkets IM’s US seaborne price for the same grade of antimony trioxide was also unmoved amid limited liquidity. Prices remained steady week on week at $5,550-5,650 per tonne cif US East Coast on June 18.

Fastmarkets IM’s price assessment for US domestic antimony trioxide was $2.55-2.65 per lb in-warehouse Baltimore on June 18, pushed down by slow consumption. 

"Demand is still soft [in the US]," a US-based distributor said. "We haven’t noticed a big difference [since China’s call for production cuts]."

Antimony trioxide, min 99.5% Sb2O3, fob China, $/tonne 
Prices6  
Source: Fastmarkets