Weaker demand to dampen Chinese antimony prices

Beijing, 16 May —

Chinese antimony prices are expected by market participants to soften further in the short term because of limited demand from the flame retardant industry, following consecutive price falls over the past month.

Prices have continued to fall since 12 April from a 10-year high in mid-March, as Covid-19 outbreaks and lockdowns in China have stemmed market activity and buying interest in the main consumption areas in east China.

Prices for 99.65pc grade antimony metal were last assessed unchanged at 79,000-80,000 yuan/t ($11,636-11,784/t) ex-works on 12 May, following a combined fall of Yn2,500/t over 12 April-10 May.

Most primary antimony metal is used as a flame retardant together with bromine, which is added in plastic products that are further consumed by the electronics, vehicles and other instrument industries.

But renewed buying interest from the seaborne market in February and March shored up market confidence and prompted antimony producers to float higher offer prices during these two months, when they expected downstream consumers to replenish stocks when they run out of stocks in this year’s second quarter. China exported 3,772t of antimony metal during January-March, up by 26pc from 2,996t a year earlier, customs data show.

“Domestic and overseas demand became weak in April and we are unsure when the situation will be better,” a market participant told Argus.

Major Chinese antimony producer Hsikwangshan Twinkling Star closed its blast furnace in late April because of low concentrate feedstock availability. The suspension is expected to last for at least one month. Hsikwangshan, with 40,000 t/yr of output capacity for antimony products, produced 24,000t last year, down from 26,000t in 2020 and 28,000t in 2019.

Production halts

The seven private-sector metal producers in Lengshuijiang have a combined output capacity of 35,000-40,000 t/yr. They are likely to completely halt metal production if concentrate supply shortages persist in May.

They also halted their blast furnaces in April because of concentrate supply shortages. Some of them may not restart their furnaces this year because all feedstock supplies will be shipped to large-scale producers such as Hsikwangshan and Chenzhou Mining, according to sources at some smelters.

China imported 6,557t of antimony concentrate during January-March, down by 18pc from a year earlier, according to customs data. Shipments reached 2,493t in March, down from 3,671t a year earlier.

There will remain downside potential for the antimony market in the short term because of slower economic growth caused by China’s lockdowns. It is unlikely prices will drop significantly in the long term either, as tighter metal supplies continue and the lockdowns in Shanghai are expected to be gradually lifted next month, according to market participants.

Article Retrieved from: ArgusMetal

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