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Vanadium prices continued to rally last week in China, Europe and the US, recovering some of their recent losses, while upstream tightness took its toll on the market.
In Europe last week, there were no signs of year-end destocking or seasonal price weakness amid buoyant demand, limited stocks and rallying prices in Asia.
Metal Bulletin assessed ferro-vanadium prices at $37-40 per kg, delivered duty-paid in Europe, on Friday November 10, up 6.2% from the midweek assessment of $35.40-37.10 per kg.
“We don’t have a huge quantity [of ferro-vanadium] left before the year-end so we’re comfortable not selling unless we can achieve much higher prices,” a producer source said.
“If you roll your offer it’s accepted immediately,” the producer added.
Others are watchful of their inventories while the end of the year approaches, mindful that they may require some material to allocate to deliveries under long-term agreements.
European ferro-vanadium prices are up 13.2% since the start of the month, with the rally taking some market participants by surprise after six consecutive weeks of falling prices.
European consumers have been forced to buy during the rally over the past two weeks, after previously waiting for prices to weaken further.
Demand from traders, however, has also helped to push prices higher, both with European buyers restocking and others shipping the material to Asia where prices are higher and demand is greater.
China continues to strengthen
The Chinese vanadium market has tightened considerably, particularly upstream, following a large 700-tonne sale of vanadium pentoxide two weeks ago.
Most exporters are no longer quoting to overseas buyers, especially since the Chinese market is leading the rest of the world higher and more appealing prices can be achieved domestically.
Metal Bulletin assessed fob China V2O5 prices at $8.40-9.00 per lb on Thursday November 9, a jump up of 23.4% from a week ago.
The increase has been underpinned by low spot supplies following the recent 700-tonne sale, and the rising cost of vanadium scrap.
“Prices were falling, and after the large sale a few weeks ago, people were thinking, ‘enough is enough,’” a trader source said.
“We have stopped offering in the export market because the domestic V2O5 market is active; prices rose and more enquiries came in,” a Chinese producer added.
In the domestic market, offers for V2O5 increased to 130,000-140,000 yuan ($19,576-21,082) per tonne in China last week from 115,000-120,000 yuan a week earlier, with deals closing across the range, sources reported.
“An increase of nearly 25% is not to be scoffed at; the international market has to respond,” the trader source said.
Metal Bulletin’s assessment for spot ferro-vanadium prices stood at $38-42 per kg, fob China, on November 9, up 15.9% week on week after raw material costs increased.
“I am offering $38 for firm inquiries, but know that the price should be $40-42 based on domestic prices. The price in the international market has not updated as quickly as in China, so it is difficult to conclude deals at parity,” a large ferro-vanadium exporter said.
In Europe, however, the pace of the increase has prompted some to hold back from participating in the rally, in fear that prices could prove unsustainable if not matched with consumer buying in the coming weeks.
“The fear is that prices have pushed up so much…it could be speculative at this point so there’s good reason to wait,” a second trader said.
V2O5 prices also jumped in Europe last week, albeit lagging behind the increase seen in the Chinese export market and European ferro-vanadium price.
Metal Bulletin assessed V2O5 prices at $6.80-7.50 per lb, in-warehouse Rotterdam, on Friday November 10, a 7.5% increase from $6.30-7 per lb previously.
Material was sold at the top of the range, while pentoxide varying from Metal Bulletin’s chemical specification traded at a lower level.
Higher prices in 2017 have made it viable for vanadium producers from less well-known sources to bring their material into their market.
“When you get to the higher price brackets it gets economical for less conventional sources to sell,” a third trader said.
The material lacks the familiarity of traditional sources, however, meaning it can be picked up at a discount to other material, sources said.
US ferro-vanadium rebounds
Following price gains overseas, the US ferro-vanadium market staged a considerable rebound last week.
US spot prices for ferro-vanadium narrowed to $17.8-18.5 per lb on November 9, up 9.67% from $16.10-17 per lb previously, according to sister title American Metal Market’s latest assessment.
The precipitous rise came after six consecutive weekly price declines, which saw prices down 23.5% from a peak of $21.25-22 per lb on September 21.
As in Europe, the sizeable price run has sparked notable interest in the US spot market, particularly among traders who had run inventories dry when prices slumped.
“People are gobbling up material right now. We’ve seen more inquiries this past week than we had in the previous three,” a supplier source said.
“We’ve had several traders coming to us for material this week, because it seems they are trying to buy back in after running themselves out of inventory,” a second supplier source said.
With available stocks thinning out, prices have been able to pick up momentum quickly, rising with each passing transaction.
Market participants suspect prices will continue to run up heading into next week, with some offers already rising above $19 per lb by the week’s end.
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