Chromium Market Update (November 14, 2012)

The European ferrochrome market dropped last week against a softening stainless steel sector, with the downward trend expected to persist through November, according to Metal-Pages. High-carbon material is currently trading at $0.91 to $0.95/lb, from $0.93 to $0.98/lb, while low-carbon ferrochrome spot prices are at $1.94 to $1.98/lb, from $1.98 to $2.02/lb.

Russian aluminothermic chromium is currently trading within the rance of $10,200-$14,000 per tonne in Rotterdam.

“The stainless steel market is weak everywhere,” a dealer was quoted as saying. “There is no export market that can act as a valve for European foreign sales, so we expect more losses in the short term, at least until first quarter delivery settlements are negotiated around early December.”

Last week, Allegheny Technologies provided a bleak forecast for the international stainless steel sector.

“The demand for stainless is weak in Europe, it’s weak in the US, it’s weak in China, and that’s really where the fundamental drivers are,” said CEO Richard Harshman. Prior to Harshman’s statement, industry sources had forecast a hefty drop in fourth-quarter chrome contract prices; the extent of the fall has, however, exceeded most expectations.

The ferrochrome price was pulled down on falling spot prices throughout the US, Europe and China, as well as worker unrest in South Africa.

Nippon Steel & Sumikin Stainless Steel (FWB:NPS), Japan’s largest stainless steel producer, attributed the decline to a slowing Chinese economy coupled with the territorial conflict between China and Japan that has resulted in a widespread boycott of Japanese goods in China.

Chinese chrome import numbers on the rise

China’s imports of chrome concentrate and ores increased slightly for the January to September period in comparison to 2011. Import volumes rose 0.58 percent against the same period last year, to 7,235,305 tonnes, while prices averaged $223/tonne, down 23.33 percent from the same period in 2011, according to official customs data.

Revenue totaled $1,614,974,363, down 22.88 percent from last year, with South Africa once again providing the lion’s share of import volume. Interestingly, Australia increased its chrome concentrate export volume to China by 184 percent year-on-year to 403,279 tonnes.