Tokyo — Specialty steelmakers in Asia set first quarter high-carbon ferrochrome contract prices in a wide range of 110-128 cents/lb CIF because different mills bought at different times over the last four months, market sources said Monday.
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One mill had bought as early as October while the most recent Q1 contract closed in January.
Q1 prices were at least 10% higher than in Q4, sources said.
Asian mills typically buy one or two months before the quarter starts.
Purchase decisions were pushed ahead or postponed due to a rapid rise in ferrochrome prices in Asia and fears that a rise in Chinese stainless steel demand could lead to a shortage of ferrochrome, sources added.
In 2016, 24.9 million mt of crude stainless steel was produced, up 15.7% year on year, the Stainless Steel Council of China Special Steel Enterprise Association said.
A steelmaker set the Q1 contract price in October at $1.10/lb CIF main Asian port, for over 500 mt/month, the mill source said.
The Indian material was 10-50 mm lumps with minimum 60% chrome, maximum 3% silicon, 8% carbon, 0.04% phosphorous and 0.05% sulfur.
Another steelmaker bought Q1 supplies in mid-December at $1.26-$1.28/lb CIF main Asian port, for over 1,000 mt/month, said a seller.
The mill bought supplies of mixed origin with 10-50 mm lumps and chrome content of 50-60%, he added. This could not be confirmed with the mill, however.
A third steelmaker bought in January at around $1.20/lb CIF main Asian port, for over 2,000 mt/month, sources said. The material was 10-50 mm lumps with minimum 60% chrome, maximum 3-4% silicon and 8-9% carbon.
The different Q1 settlement levels reflected market conditions at the time of purchase, sources said.
In October, the spot price of 58-60% high-carbon ferrochrome imports in China, the largest importer in Asia, averaged 90.13 cents/lb CIF, S&P Global Platts data showed.
In December, the prices averaged $1.22 cents/lb CIF China, while the January it averaged $1.12/lb CIF China.
The second mill contract was set only a few days after Glencore's December 15 announcement hiking the European Q1 contract price by 50% from Q4 to $1.65 cents/lb, said the seller source.
"Prices were hitting the peak at the time," he said.
Asian spot ferrochrome prices softened in January ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays.
The Platts China high-carbon 58-60% ferrochrome price was last assessed at $1.04-$1.15/lb CIF China on February 3.
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