Singapore — China's import demand for manganese ore remained at a standstill this week as buyers eyed prices below $4/mtu CIF basis in the face of a weak ferroalloys market and ahead of the upcoming extended February 18-24 Lunar New Year holidays, market sources said Friday.
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BHP offers of 44% grade lumps were heard rangebound at $4.05-4.10/mtu CIF China Friday for February shipments, unchanged from last week but down from its initial offer of $4.25/mtu early last month, Chinese sources said.
The producer's spot materials ex-Tianjin port were pegged Friday at around Yuan 32/mtu ($5.20) for 44% grade and at Yuan 32.50-33/mtu for 45-46% grade, sources said.
Eramet was quoted a stable $3.90-4.05/mtu CIF China Friday, with port prices for its 44% lumps ex-Tianjin offered at around Yuan 31/mtu for lumps and Yuan 29.50/mtu for fines.
"But no one is buying, everyone is waiting for prices to fall further, mainly below $4/mtu for BHP materials," a Beijing trader said.
"New Year holidays are coming and the Chinese are all using up inventory and not buying...they want lower prices and can wait till after the break," a producer source said.
Another producer source agreed, adding that market outlook is dim, with ferroalloy plants production slowing down, "so even if prices all fall below $4/mtu they may not buy, as they think there can still be lower levels...the market is very competitive now and we have to see what happens after the New Year holidays."
Two Chinese traders said Friday they have stopped manganese ore trades currently due to the weak market, and may return only after the break.
Chinese ferroalloys plants typically slow production or shut down during Lunar New Year breaks each year.
Due to weak market conditions, some plants have been shutting down since the second half of 2014, with some others also planning to cut back or shut during the 2015 break, sources said.
Meanwhile, offers for various South African brands of manganese ore lumps between 36-37% grade were heard stable at mostly $3.60-3.65/mtu CIF China basis Friday.
--Yuencheng Mok, firstname.lastname@example.org
--Edited by Jeremy Lovell, email@example.com