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Chinese ferrochrome prices fall, molybdenum rises, nickel briquette stabilizes

Tokyo — Chinese ferrochrome prices fell this week on a lack of buying interest, but molybdenum, used along with ferrochrome for stainless steel production, rose, while nickel briquette premiums were steady, market sources said Wednesday.

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S&P Global Platts assessed the Chinese high-carbon ferrochrome import price at 82-83 cents/lb CIF China on Wednesday, down from 84.5-85.5 cents/lb CIF China a week ago. The Chinese charge chrome import price was assessed at 82-84 cents/lb CIF China, down from the recent assessment of 84-86 cents/lb CIF China.

One source at a mill, operating several plants in China and other Asian countries, blamed the weak stainless steel prices for the need to keep input costs low.

"There is competition from southeast Asia mills. Our production is at near full-rate, but steel prices are not good," he said.

A ferrochrome producer made a similar comment, that while there was demand from Chinese steelmakers, prices were below his expectations.

Soft steel prices do not appear to be affecting molybdenum prices at all, however.

Spot molybdenum prices picked up steam this week, due to tightening supplies in China.

The tightness contributed to higher Chinese domestic prices, recently heard at Yuan 138,000/mt ($33.30/kg) ex-plant, inclusive of 16% VAT, for over 600 mt for November delivery. The deal is 10% higher than the international level.

A South Korean mill was also seeking to buy 200 mt of moly briquette and 300 mt of ferromoly, also for November delivery.

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Due to a surge in buying interest, offers for moly oxide, the main feedstock for moly briquette and ferromoly, were heard Wednesday at $12.25-$12.40/lb ex-warehouse Busan, while just a few days ago on Monday, deals were closing at $11.85-$11.90/lb ex-warehouse Busan.

There was also demand for nickel briquette this week, the mill source said.

Nickel briquette demand rose for use in nickel-contained carbon steel used for transport vehicles, the mill source said.

The nickel briquette premium was heard at $100-$200/mt plus LME cash, CIF main Asian ports for 200-300 mt volumes delivered to steel plants, while 100 mt volumes for delivery to battery makers, which require special packaging, were heard at $200-$300/mt plus LME cash, CIF main ports, trade and mill sources said.

Platts does not assess nickel briquette premiums in Asia.

The sources said supply tightness in the first half of the year, which, like moly, was driven by a supply shortage in China, has eased, as higher prices encouraged production increases.

Steelmakers are closely monitoring the increase in demand in the battery sector. "Previously, battery makers were buying container loads of nickel briquettes, but these days they are buying in 100 mt volumes," a Japanese trader said.

Meanwhile, one Japanese moly trader said for moly oxide production to increase, prices need to rise further to $15-$16/lb in order for high-cost mines in North America to restart.

--Mayumi Watanabe, mayumi.watanabe@spglobal.com

--Edited by Jonathan Fox, jonathan.fox@spglobal.com