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Ferroalloy prices in Europe influenced by global factors

Ferroalloys prices in Europe in March were largely influenced by global factors rather than directly by local market conditions. These factors included fluctuations in the euro-dollar currency pair, demand in the Chinese market and global logistics problems. Manganese, silicon and chrome alloys rose in price, while in the noble alloys segment a downward trend prevailed.

Market Insights

Manganese and Silicon

In March, ferrosilicon prices (75% Si min, 1.5% Al max) continued to rise, supported by both fairly stable demand and a continued shortage of free volumes on the spot market. The weighted average price index on the Metalshub marketplace rose by a further €100/t (+7%) since the end of February. Some sellers are appealing to much higher alloy prices in the US market, insisting on further price increases in Europe. However, according to some market participants, the arrival of imports from Brazil and Malaysia at the beginning of the Q2 could significantly slow price growth in the EU. The question remains open as to whether the situation in the Suez Canal will have a short-term effect on ferrosilicon import prices.

Strong end-user demand and higher prices for manganese ore also contributed to price increases for bulk manganese alloys in Europe in March. Metalshub's weighted average price index for HC FeMn (75% Mn min, 8.5% C max, 0.25% P max) increased by 2%, while the price index for SiMn (65% Mn min, 16% Si min, 0.25% P max) soared by 16% amid an extreme lack of prompt material during the month.

In early March, European manganese metal prices stabilised and even showed some signs of decline, as the impact of recent month's factor of rapidly rising cost of sea container shipments weakened. However, in the last week of March, logistics once again became the most discussed topic in the manganese market. The blockage of the Suez Canal led to a jump in metal prices, with the Metalshub weighted average index for Manganese Metal Flakes rising by 5% (in dollar terms, however, due to the strengthening of the US dollar, only 2%). After the successful re-floating of the container ship, the question of when the major maritime transport artery will be fully operational again remains open (at the time of writing, 30 March 2021). Nevertheless, the supply delays already triggered by the situation in Suez will have an impact on European manganese metal quotations in early April. As a reminder, more than 90% of this metal's supply to the EU comes from China.

Chrome

In March, the picture on the European chrome market was largely influenced by the situation in China. A month earlier, reduced production at local plants triggered an increase in ferrochrome prices in China, as a result of which many European traders reoriented their shipments to China. This, in turn, led to an increase in prices in the EU market as well. Metalshub's weighted average price index for high-carbon ferrochrome rose 7% in March, while the price index for low-carbon ferrochrome rose 3%.

By the end of the month, however, the trend on the world chrome markets had reversed. Now oversupply in China began to exert pressure on quotations with effects on prices in Europe. The continuing strengthening of the US dollar may have an increasing effect. During March, the euro fell by 3% against the US currency.

Molybdenum and Vanadium

The weighted average European ferromolybdenum price index on the Metalshub digital platform fell by 9% in March, and the downward trend continues. In addition to currency fluctuations, the situation in China is contributing to the price decline. Local end-users are postponing purchases in anticipation of even deeper price declines and this, in turn, is affecting other global markets. The Metalshub transaction-based ferrovanadium index declined 6% in March, again as a result of currency fluctuations and weak demand. A recovery in buying activity is only likely after the prices of noble alloys reach a local bottom.


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