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Domestic Chinese high-carbon ferrochrome prices fall; stainless steel demand weak


Domestic spot prices of 50% Cr Chinese high-carbon ferrochrome were at Yuan 6,200-6,400/mt (equivalent to 76-79 cents/lb) on Wednesday, down from Yuan 6,250-6,400/mt a week ago, after major stainless steelmakers in the country lowered their October purchase prices.

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Last week, Shanxi Taigang Stainless Steel had cut its October bid price by Yuan 50/mt on month to Yuan 6,150/mt, while Baosteel and Jiuquan Iron & Steel both dropped their October prices by Yuan 50/mt on month to Yuan 6,400/mt in late-September.

Other than the lower bid prices, spot prices are also under pressure from falling chrome ore prices, and weak demand and prices in the stainless steel market which has since resulted in output cuts among some stainless steel producers, industry participants said.

A floor however, may be provided by potential production cuts across the country as the latest drop in bid prices could either eat further into profit margins or deepen losses of ferrochrome smelters, said sources.

"Operating has become even harder after the Yuan 50/mt price cuts. Many smelters can no longer bear the price cuts," said an official with a central China mill.

Also ferroalloy producers in Inner Mongolia have been told by local authorities to cut or shut production from late October to early November to minimize pollution during the APEC Summit that will take place in Beijing in early November, said sources. But views on how deeply this would affect supply in the market varied among market watchers.

"The impact would be big. Most of the big producers would be stopping production," said a Beijing-based trader.

A Beijing-based ferrochrome analyst said it is hard to estimate potential production losses as relative to other ferroalloy producers like those of nickel pig iron, ferrochrome is not as pollution-intensive. Hence shutdowns among ferrochrome producers in the region may not be extensive, she said.

Whether supply has tightened will only be apparent around end-October when the dry season in southern China approaches, said an official with an east China stainless mill. Producers in the hydropower-dependent south will face high power tariffs when the dry season starts around end-October and most would shut down or reduce production during this time.

Spot prices are also expected to follow the direction of the November bid prices and sources tentatively expected November bid prices will either be unchanged or lower on month.

The stainless steel market is the largest consumer of high carbon ferrochrome.

--Vivian Teo,
--Edited by Irene Tang,