Prices

By Davide Ghilotti, Martim Facada, Michael Greenfield, Carrie Shi, William Clarke, Huaqing Fu
Published: Friday, 30 August 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


Alumina

Alumina prices steady in August after Chinese exports slide

Sybil Pan

Prices for brown fused alumina remained steady in August, continuing a long-term stability trend in the market.

Fastmarkets’ assessments indicate that the average price for alumina, fused brown, min 95% Al2O3, refractory sized (0-6mm), fob China was at $788 per tonne in late August and has been at the same level throughout 2019, unchanged from the corresponding period in 2018.

The stable year-on-year average price can be attributed to continuing concerns around China’s supply capacity, following the government’s environmental inspections, at a time of low demand.

Fastmarkets assessed the price range for alumina, fused brown, min 95% Al2O3, refractory sized (0-6mm), fob China at $750-770 per tonne in the third week of August.

China’s export volumes of alumina (HS code: 2812000) fell by 34% year on year in the first six months of 2019, due to poor demand for refractory products and high consumer inventories.

Multiple buyers in Europe said they were not inquiring after new purchases of fused alumina due to high levels of remaining warehouse stocks.

Chinese alumina exports in the first six months of 2019 totaled 156,749 tonnes, compared with 239,088 tonnes in the same period of 2018, including both metallurgical and non-metallurgical material.

From January to June 2019, China exported the highest volume of alumina to India at 36,023 tonnes, 13% more than 31,895 tonnes over the same period last year. 

Compared with 2018, however, other major importers such as Malaysia, South Korea and Indonesia witnessed a downtrend in their alumina imports from China. Alumina exports to Malaysia, for example, totaled 27,756 tonnes in 2019, 69.3% lower than 90,280 tonnes in the first half of 2018.

Alumina, fused brown, min 95% Al2O3, refractory sized (0-6mm), fob China, $/tonne 
Prices1  
Source: Fastmarkets 


Bauxite

Bauxite market unmoved by 42% drop in Chinese shipments

Sybil Pan

Non-metallurgical bauxite prices in China were almost unchanged in August, despite plunging exports caused by simultaneous low supply and weak demand.

The average price of Fastmarkets’ assessment of bauxite, refractory-grade, 86%/2.0/3.15-3.2 (0-6mm), fob Xingang in January to June 2019 stood at $412 per tonne, down from the $447 per tonne average price reported in the first half of 2018.

Fastmarkets’ assessment for bauxite, refractory-grade, 85%/2.0/3.15-3.2 (0-6mm), fob Xingang was at $380-390 per tonne in the third week of August, in line with levels recorded at the end of July.

Chinese exports of bauxite declined by 42% year-on-year in the first half of 2019, but it appears that the sharp drop did little to encourage sellers to cut offers, as scant availability of material meant that discounts were not warranted.

Buyers are also understood to be accepting price levels without haggling for reductions, even though the weak demand situation is well known.

China exported 35,140 tonnes of bauxite (HS code: 26060000) in the January-June period of this year.

This figure includes both metallurgical and non-metallurgical material, although a substantial amount is thought to be represented by non-metallurgical refractory-grade bauxite.

This compares with 60,387 tonnes of bauxite exported by China in the first six months of 2018, according to official but unconfirmed data seen by Fastmarkets.

The drop in bauxite exports is mainly due to reduced supply, resulting from Beijing’s environmental protection efforts as well as weak market demand from end-user applications such as refractories.

Bauxite, refractory-grade, 86%/2.0/3.15-3.2 (0-6mm), fob Xingang, $/tonne 
Prices2  
Source: Fastmarkets 

Fluorspar

Chinese average fluorspar prices climb after exports fall

Carrie Shi 

China’s acid-grade fluorspar market held mostly firm in the first half of 2019, due to tight supply caused by reduced production and environmental inspections.

Prices showed signs of softness the first half of August, under pressure from falling downstream prices for hydrogen fluoride (HF) and a sluggish market for refrigerants. 

Fastmarkets’ price assessment for fluorspar, acidspar, 97% CaF2, wet filtercake, fob China, was $450-520 per tonne on in mid-August, widening downward by $10 per tonne from the range assessed the beginning of the month.

China’s total export volumes of fluorspar, with CaF2 content of more than 97%, in the first half of 2019 came to 97,722 tonnes, down by 3.8% from 101,626 tonnes in the corresponding period of 2018, according to official Chinese data.

The five leading destinations for Chinese fluorspar exports were India (34,848 tonnes), Japan (19,957 tonnes), the Netherlands (16,574 tonnes), the United States (9,187 tonnes) and Germany (5,381 tonnes).

China imported 31,948 tonnes of fluorspar (CaF2 >97%) in the first half of 2019, down by 50% year on year from 63,916 tonnes in January-June 2018. 

The average value of material imported was $273 per tonne, down by 20.9% year on year. Imports came mostly from Burma (16,327 tonnes) and Mongolia (7,527 tonnes).

Meanwhile, total export volumes of Chinese fluorspar with CaF2 content less than, or equal to, 97% in the first half of 2019 came to 91,907 tonnes, down by 11.3% year on year from 102,507 tonnes in the corresponding period of 2018. 

The average value of material exported was $325 per tonne, up by 18.2% year on year.

The top five destinations for this material were India (31,971 tonnes), South Korea (17,020 tonnes), Japan (12,620 tonnes), Indonesia (10,870 tonnes) and Taiwan (8,820 tonnes).

Strong demand for downstream steel products and construction materials in both the domestic and export markets supported volumes and prices of fluorspar exports.

China’s imports of fluorspar (CaF2 ≤97%) in the first half of 2019 increased by 42.7% year on year to 197,082 tonnes, up from 138,150 tonnes in January-June 2018. The average value of material imported was $163 per tonne, flat year on year.

Imports came mostly from Mongolia (173,831 tonnes), Burma (8,190 tonnes) and South Africa (4,913 tonnes).

Fluorspar, acidspar, 97% CaF2, wet filtercake, fob China, $/tonne 
Prices3  
Source: Fastmarkets 

Graphite

Flake graphite market awaits offers from new Chinese mine

Davide Ghilotti, Huaqing Fu

Limited graphite trading activity characterized China’s seaborne market for both flake and amorphous products in August and price assessments for both commodities remained unchanged.

Demand for fine flake material, especially 94% C, -100 mesh (commonly known as -194 grade) has been slow, while participants hold off to see what offer prices may be available from the new Luobei graphite mine in Heilongjang province, with the first material anticipate at the end of August.

Market participants said they expect further softening in the China flake export market in the coming months, due to oversupply and weak demand from some end applications.

Trade to Europe also remained subdued in August due to the summer holiday period in a number of European countries, compounding already low demand for graphite material.

Refractories, still the largest single end market for graphite in Europe and other main western markets, has suffered a sharper than expected slowdown in 2019. 

After a strong 2018, both users and producers of refractories amassed inventories that have been slow to clear, weighing down demand for flake graphite.

Prices for flake and amorphous grades were unchanged in Europe in the first three weeks of August, however market participants predicted some volatility towards the end of the third quarter.

Graphite flake 94% C, -100 mesh, fob China, $/tonne
Prices4  
Source: Fastmarkets 

Iodine

August iodine prices unchanged by reports of higher deal values

Michael Greenfield

The spot price for iodine held firm in August at $29-33 per kg, the range it has settled at since late June, marking the longest spell of stability in a year. 

Assessments remained unchanged, despite sellers reporting spot sales at $35 per kg. The price for iodine, min 99.5%, spot, delivered US/Europe, cif Asia, was assessed by Fastmarkets at $29-33 per kg on August 15. Prices rose to that level from $27.75-31.00 per kg on 27 June.

The last similar period of stability was between July 26 and September 20 last year, when the price was $25.50-26.50 per kg for nine weeks.

The lack of movement in the spot market, which has shown a 17% increase since the start of 2019, has been due to a standoff between buyers and sellers following a $2 per kg increase at the beginning of the third quarter. Several buyers said they would not place orders while the offer price was $33-34 per kg.

Despite hesitation among purchasers, two sellers reported that spot sales had been achieved at $35 per kg in mid-August.

A producer said that "plenty of customers are coming to us for inquiries and quotations, but 

we have limited inventory and we cannot take [new] spot business."

Fastmarkets refrained from raising the price assessment until such prices were confirmed from the buy-side of the market.

Iodine 99.5% min, spot, delivered US/Europe, cif Asia, $/kg 
Prices5  
Source: Fastmarkets 


Lithium

Chinese buying revives while other regions remain stagnant

Martim Facada, Carrie Shi

China’s domestic battery-grade lithium carbonate market leveled off in mid-August after several weeks of decline. 

The stabilization was attributed to a slight improvement in downstream demand after some cathode makers returned to the market to meet increased production needs. 

Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, exw domestic China, spot price at 60,000-65,000 yuan ($8,529-9,240*) per tonne on August 15, unchanged from the previous week.

Chinese technical and industrial grade lithium carbonate prices fell again in mid-August, with a number of deals concluded around 55,000 yuan per tonne or lower, in reaction to weaker battery grade prices.

Fastmarkets’ Chinese domestic lithium carbonate 99% Li2CO3 min, technical and industrial grade, ex-works, spot price fell to 54,000-58,000 yuan per tonne on August 15, from 55,000-59,000 yuan per tonne the previous week. 

Meanwhile, the Chinese battery-grade lithium hydroxide market continued to be sluggish. Although lower offer prices were heard, the assessment was unchanged due to limited transactions.

The lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, exw spot price remained at 70,000-75,000 yuan per tonne in August, where it had been since the beginning of the month, when it fell from 75,000-80,000 yuan per tonne.

The cif Asia battery-grade lithium spot market was also flat. Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate, 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery-grade spot price cif China, Japan and Korea at $10-12 per kg, and the lithium hydroxide monohydrate, 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery-grade spot price cif China, Japan and Korea at $12-14 per kg, on August 15.

European and US spot prices were stable in August, largely thanks to the summer holiday period. Fastmarkets assessed the lithium carbonate 99.5% Li2CO3 min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US at $11-13 per kg, unchanged since May 23. 

The lithium hydroxide monohydrate 56.5% LiOH.H2O min, battery grade, spot price ddp Europe and US also stable week on week at $13-14 per kg on August 15. 

All lithium carbonate, hydroxide and spodumene prices are available via Fastmarkets’ Battery Raw Materials Market Tracker.

*Conversions made August 2019

Lithium carbonate 99% Li2CO3 min, technical and industrial grade, spot price range exw domestic China, yuan/tonne 
Prices6  
Source: Fastmarkets 

Magnesia

Magnesia prices stable in quiet market

Davide Ghilotti, Carrie Shi

Prices for refractory grades of magnesia were flat in August amid quiet trading conditions, despite constrained raw material supply in China.

In late July, Chinese magnesite producers announced a three-month ban on magnesite mining to clear inventory and stabilize prices, after sharp price falls in the first and second quarters of 2019.

Fastmarkets’ latest assessment of the magnesia, fused, 97% MgO, Ca:Si 2:1, lump, fob China price was $850-950 per tonne on Tuesday August 13. This market had shown few signs of movement by the third week of August.

Global refractory materials manufacturer Magnesita said in August that demand for magnesia-based steel refractories had been weak in the first six months of this year, although non-steel markets, including glass refractories, environmental and oil and gas applications, performed solidly.

The company said it believed prices for refractory raw materials would increase again before the end of 2019.

With subdued demand from for magnesia-based steel refractories, the largest market for magnesia, and China restricting magnesite output, Chinese exports of fused magnesia have declined this year compared with 2018.

China exported 192,578 tonnes of fused magnesia in the first six months of 2019, down by 31.8% from the equivalent period of 2018. Export revenue was $152.18 million in January-June, down by 39.6% compared with the same months of 2018, customs data show.

Increasing stocks from newly opened flotation production lines have caused most magnesia producers to lower prices this year to boost sales against a flat market. 

Chinese exports of other magnesia products rose in the first half of the year, however.

The country exported 495,993 tonnes of dead burned magnesia during the period, up by 11.1% year on year. Export revenue totaled $157.6 million in January-June, down by 17.9% from the same period last year.

The dead burned magnesia price has trended downward this year, especially for high-grade materials due to increasing stocks. Fastmarkets’ spot price for magnesia, dead burned, 97.5% MgO, lump, fob China was $700-850 per tonne on August 13, down from $1,100-1,300 per tonne on January 1, 2019.

Chinese exports of caustic calcined magnesia totaled 372,359 tonnes in the first half of this year, up by 2.6% year on year. Export revenue was $65.77 million in January-June, up by 3.6% year on year.

Caustic calcined magnesia prices have mostly held steady in 2019 on stable demand from chemical sectors. Fastmarkets assessed the magnesia, calcined, 90-92% MgO, fob China price at $170-210 per tonne on August 13, down from $180-220 per tonne in early 2019.

Magnesia, fused, 97% MgO, Ca:Si 2:1, lump, fob China, $/tonne
Prices7  
Source: Fastmarkets 

Silicon carbide

Silicon carbide prices remain steady despite tight supply

Martim Facada

Silicon carbide prices have remained mostly flat over the past six months, even though the lasting effects of production shutdowns in China as well as higher costs of producing abrasive green silicon carbide and refractory-grade material reported earlier this year kept the market tight.

Fastmarkets’ latest price assessment for silicon carbide, green, over 99.5% SiC, FEPA 8-220, ddp Europe, was €1,950-2,100 ($2,160-2,327*) per tonne at the end of July, compared with €1,950-2,050 per tonne in January this year.

The price of silicon carbide, refractory grade 95% SiC min, ddp Europe, was assessed at €1,050-1,300 per tonne on July 30, up from €1,000-1,250 at the start of 2019, while silicon carbide, refractory grade 98% SiC min, ddp Europe was €1,250-1,400 per tonne in July, compared with €1,200-1,400 per tonne in January.

"Silicon carbide prices increased in early 2019 due to the tightness of material supply resulting from shutdowns in China throughout the fourth quarter of 2018, as well as the higher production costs," a consumer told Fastmarkets earlier this year, explaining what had set off the upward trend. 

The price of silicon carbide, FEPA 8-220 black about 99% SiC acid wash, ddp Europe was assessed at €1,450-1,550 per tonne on July 30, while the silicon carbide, FEPA 8-220 black about 99% SiC water wash, ddp Europe price was assessed at €1,350-1,450 on the same date. Both prices have remained flat since the start of 2019.

*Conversions made August 2019

Silicon carbide, green, over 99.5% SiC, FEPA 8-220, ddp Europe, €/tonne 
Prices8  
Source: Fastmarkets 

TiO2 feedstocks

TiO2 feedstock prices rise

William Clarke

Titanium dioxide feedstock prices have been fairly steady so far in 2019, with most grades moving up slightly since the beginning of the year.

Fastmarkets’ price assessment for rutile concentrate 95% TiO2 min, bulk, cif China was $1,150-1,250 per tonne on August 15. 

Prices for this grade started the year at $1,000-1,100 per tonne and have inched up over the eight months to late August, despite volatility in titanium dioxide markets.

Prices for rutile concentrate 95% TiO2 min, bagged, fob Australia have also crept up very slightly during 2019 to date, assessed at $1,250-1,350 per tonne on August 15, compared with $1,045-1,350 per tonne in January.

Prices for rutile concentrate 95% TiO2 min, large volumes for pigment, fob Australia were assessed at $1,100-1,200 per tonne on August 15, compared with $1,000-1,050 per tonne at the start of the year

Ilmenite prices have similarly increased slowly this year. 

Fastmarkets assessed the price of ilmenite concentrate, 47-49% TiO2, cif China at $180-200 per tonne on August 15, up from $164-180 per tonne in early January.

Mineral sands miners have performed fairly solidly in 2019 on steady to slightly increasing prices, whereas titanium dioxide producers have reported lower profits, due to higher feedstock costs and sagging pigment prices.

Rutile concentrate 95% TiO2 min, bagged, fob Australia, $/tonne 
Prices9  
Source: Fastmarkets 

Soda ash

Europe’s soda ash market tightens as Chinese prices soften

Michael Greenfield

The global soda ash market has been tight this year, allowing European producers to introduce price increases into their annual contracts.

Fastmarkets’ price assessment for soda ash, natural and synthetic, dense and light, large contracts, delivered Europe was at €195-230 ($216-255*) per tonne on July 25. 

This was a widening of the €210-220 per tonne range reported in January, but market feedback suggested that transactions have been weighted towards the upper end of this bracket in recent months.

Tightness in European supply has been exacerbated by the closure of some major local producers.

In the second week of August, it was announced that soda ash production will halt at Ciech’s factory in Romania from September 18 after a price increase from the steam supplier slashed the profitability of the plant. 

CET Govora, a state-owned steam supplier, has placed a 135% rate increase on its price for supply of steam to the soda ash factory. 

The soda ash plant in Ramnicu Valcea, northwest of Bucharest, has nameplate capacity of 600,000 tonnes per year of soda ash. It relies on state-owned CET Govora to provide steam for the chemical processes involved.

With this asset halting production, there could be further strain on supply in the European market, which is soon to begin yearly contract negotiations.

In China, the market has trended the other way, with prices falling on ample supply. China has invested in significantly boosting its domestic soda ash capacity in the last five years.

The price of soda ash, synthetic, dense and light, fob China was assessed at $230-240 per tonne on August 15, down from $275-285 per tonne in January.

*Conversions made August 2019

Soda ash, synthetic, dense and light, fob China, $/tonne 
Prices10  
Source: Fastmarkets 

Zircon

Zircon prices rally towards end of year highs

William Clarke

Premium grade zircon prices strengthened further in August against July, after relatively short supply continued to support selling values.

Prices of zircon, both premium and standard grades, have been on a long-term uptrend in recent years, thanks largely to the depletion of existing stockpiles and a lack of new projects coming online.

Fastmarkets assessed the price of zircon, premium grade, 66.5% ZrO2 min, bulk, cif China, at $1,550-1,650 on August 15, up from $1,450-1,650 per tonne in early July. 
The increase took premium zircon prices back up to levels recorded at the beginning of 2019 and marked a clear increased over the $1,350-1,450 per tonne level seen at the start of 2018.

Prices for zircon, premium grade, 66.5% ZrO2 min, cif Spain were flat against the equivalent cif China price for the same grade of material at $1,550-1,650 per tonne in mid-August, having been more or less stable in that range since the start of the year.

Prices for zircon, standard grade, 65.5% ZrO2 min, cif China were assessed at $1,400-1,600 per tonne on August 15, compared with $1,450-1,600 per tonne at the beginning of 2019.

Mineral sands companies are rapidly snapping up projects with zircon production capacity.

But the profitability of such projects is often hindered by weaker and more volatile prices for other mineral sands which are co-produced with zircon and go into the titanium dioxide feedstocks market, rather than higher value refractories and ceramics applications like zircon.

Zircon, premium grade, 66.5% ZrO2 min, bulk, cif China, $/tonne 
Prices12  
Source: Fastmarkets