Tokyo — Chrome ore prices in the Chinese domestic spot market have fallen thismonth ahead of the Lunar New Year, while import prices are holding stable,market sources said Thursday.
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Prices of 40-42% chromite were heard trading this week at Yuan 66($9.53)/metric ton unit, which is a price for one ton of ore containing 1 kgchrome.
This was down Yuan 1-2/mtu from late December, said Yujing Liu, analystat Beijing Antaike, Chinese state-run consultancy.
A South African miner agreed Yuan 66/mtu was the current spot tradinglevel.
Liu attributed the price fall to Chinese stainless steelmakers cuttingJanuary ferrochrome purchase prices.
The miner agreed, adding that trade volumes were thin despite lowerprices, with only a few hundred ton lots sold to ferrochrome smelters.
Buyers were mostly smaller smelters with enough stocks for February. Thelarge smelters, typically with several ten thousand tons of annual outputcapacity, have stocks to cover until the end of March, he said.
The lower prices failed to attract buyers as ferrochrome producers wantto utilize their stocks first.
Sellers were outnumbering buyers currently as some large ferrochromeproducers were also re-selling their stocks, the miner added.
The large smelters typically keep three-month stocks. Delivery time fromSouth Africa, the largest import source, takes over a month.
"The falling domestic ore price in China may be reflected in the Februaryferrochrome purchase price of the stainless mills. Market outlook isnontransparent," he said.
Liu also saw February ferrochrome purchase price falling, by Yuan200-300/mt from January.
"Chinese stainless steel prices may not be good," she said.
The country's largest stainless steelmaker Tsingshan set January purchaseprice at Yuan 10,395/mt ($1.14/lb), down from Yuan 10,600/mt for December, andTaiyuan at Yuan 10,100/mt, down from December's Yuan 10,400/mt, and BaowuSteel at Yuan 10,300/mt ($1.13/lb), down Yuan 500/mt from Yuan 10,800/mt.
Baowu Steel however, raised January stainless steel prices. Its January304-grade stainless steel prices rose by Yuan 1,200/mt to Yuan 17,000/mt forhot-rolled coils and to Yuan 18,000/mt for cold-rolled coils.
Meanwhile, spot import prices are holding stable, miners said.
Chinese buyers were bidding at $380/mt CIF China, while offers were at$390-$400/mt CIF China, sources said.
Sellers said their last sales prices were at $390-$410/mt CIF China andlower bids would be rejected.
"Chromite stocks at Chinese main ports are estimated to be a little above1 million mt. That is only worth four weeks of consumption. China consumes 1million mt/month of chromite. Last year, 2 million-mt stock level was thenorm," said a second supplier source.
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--Edited by Irene Tang, email@example.com