Antimony gains support in Europe amid coronavirus outbreak uncertainty

By IM Staff
Published: Tuesday, 04 February 2020

The impact of the coronavirus outbreak from Wuhan city, China, is positively affecting antimony prices in Europe, with low stocks in Rotterdam and the market heavily dependent on supply from China.

The East Asian country accounts for 78% of global antimony output, according to the United States Geologic Survey (USGS).

Fastmarkets assessed the price for antimony max 100 ppm Bi, in-whs Rotterdam at $5,850-6,150 per tonne on Friday, January 31, up by 3.4% from $5,650-6,150 per tonne on Wednesday.

Fastmarkets assessed the price of antimony, standard grade II, in-warehouse Rotterdam at $5,800-6,000 per tonne on Friday, up by 2.6% from $5,600-5,900 per tonne two days before.

A combination of low inventories in Rotterdam - especially for trioxide-grade antimony - and logistical concerns, after regional and local Chinese authorities delayed businesses reopening until February 10 at the earliest, have supported the metal’s price action.

"Everybody is sold out at this point and not only in Rotterdam, [it’s true for] Indian traders and in other locations, the market is getting tight," a European trader said.

Stock levels for trioxide-grade antimony were already limited before the Lunar New Year, with some traders delaying their purchases over December and January due to a stagnant market.

"I am offering $6,350 per tonne today… it wasn’t accepted but I’m not going to lower it because there is no cheap material any longer," a Europe-based trader said.

Despite the hefty offers, deals concluded between $5,850 per tonne and $6,000 per tonne for standard-grade II. Although, for now, some consumers are still assessing the situation, Fastmarkets was told.

Some traders are taking a cautious approach and will not offer material until the situation becomes clear, sources said.

"I am keeping my material because I have shipments and commitments to meet. If I sell now, I am not sure I will find a replacement in the short term," a second European trader said.

More disruption to come?
Additionally, market sources that spoke to Fastmarkets mentioned a potential full closure between China and neighboring Vietnam.

For the time being, Vietnam has banned all flights coming from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau until May 1, the country announced on Friday.

The northern province of Lang Son has closed the border between Vietnam and China and imposed restrictions on the La Cao border, local media reported.

These closures are not related to the stricter enforcement of anti-smuggling, which is already in place along the China-Vietnam border channel, but could give leverage to sellers to increase prices, sources said.

"With Vietnam out of the picture, cheap material will vanish," a third European trader said.

But even in the case of border closures, some sources remain skeptical of the true impact that blocking this path will have.

"You can survive two months without Chinese material," a second European trader said. "There is material from other parts of the world, like the United States or Mexico, and production from Vietnam and Myanmar can be shipped into Europe directly," the second trader said.

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