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Mineral sands buoyed by zircon price hike

London's FTSE 100 closed the week to May 26 at a new record high despite the retreat of the pound as opinion polls indicated the lead held by British Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party is narrowing.

The index gained 30 points, or 0.4%, to close the week at 7,547.63 points. Swiss Market indexes managed marginal gains, while most of the other major European bourses ended the week slightly lower.

Jeremy Corbyn's Labor Party is now six points behind on 38% compared to the Conservative Party's 44%, according to a poll conducted for The Sunday Telegraph. The Conservatives had a 25-point lead when the election was called.

Meanwhile, there was little movement in the three major U.S. indexes, which closed relatively unchanged. The U.S. dollar, however, was buoyed by stronger-than-expected preliminary March quarter GDP data.

Price Ring

The S&P Global Platts 62% Fe iron ore price slumped to US$58 per tonne on May 26, from US$63.05 per tonne a week earlier. Although there was plenty of supply, weak sentiment and a two-day holiday in China slowed things down.

According to Bernstein, iron ore shipments last week totaled 22.4 million tonnes, roughly in line with the year-to-date weekly average exports, but down from the prior week's shipments of 24.6 million tonnes.

Meanwhile, the LME cash price for nickel dropped 3.1% to close the week at US$9,040 per tonne. LME lead climbed 1.5% to US$2,104.75 per tonne, while LME copper slipped 0.5% to US$5,638 per tonne.

Patersons Securities noted that base metals struggled for traction in Friday LME trading as Chinese growth concerns lingered.

Gold closed up 1.1% week over week at US$1,267.52 per ounce, silver rallied 3.1% to US$17.29 per ounce and platinum notched a 1.9% gain to close the week out at US$961 per ounce.

Talking Points

The mineral sands industry should be reassured by Iluka Resources Ltd.'s recent announcement that it will increase its zircon price by US$130 per tonne to US$1,100 per tonne from the start of July.

RFC Ambrian analysts said investors have raised concerns over what will happen to pricing following the strong performance in the past year.

According to the broker, most of the recent price strength has come from ilmenite, while zircon and rutile have been treading water.

"So this development is extremely welcome and should reassure investors that the supply-demand equation in mineral sands remains very much in our favor," the analysts noted.

Investec Securities said it was a "hefty" lift in price that demonstrates Iluka clearly has confidence in the market.

The news follows Base Resources Ltd.'s announcement that it plans to up the mining rate at its Kwale mineral sands project in Kenya.

The company approved a revised mining plan to maximize concentrate feed to the mineral separation plant to offset declining ore grades expected from the middle of 2018.

RFC Ambrian said while the move will come with slightly higher CapEx, it will be more than offset by efficiency gains and the net present value impact of bringing production forward.

This prompted the broker to lift its price target for Base by 6 Australian cents to 49 cents and maintain its "Buy" recommendation.

Financings

Australia's ASF Group Ltd. launched a nonrenounceable 1-for-8 rights issue to raise up to A$12.1 million to fund investments in its asset portfolio and for future investment opportunities.

Russian aluminum producer United Co. Rusal Plc secured a five-year, pre-export facility for US$1.7 billion to refinance an existing PXF facility and other debts.

Marathon Gold Corp. closed its previously announced underwritten bought-deal offering, raising C$18.6 million after the overallotment option was exercised in full.

Phoenix Global Mining Ltd. launched an IPO to raise £4.5 million and list on London's AIM exchange during the second quarter.

Georgian Mining Corp. raised US$7 million through an oversubscribed placement to fund the expansion of the resource at the Kvemo Bolnisi copper zone, part of the Bolnisi copper-gold project in Georgia.

S&P Global Platts and S&P Global Market Intelligence are owned by S&P Global Inc.