The tungsten market started off with low prices at the beginning of 2016, a theme that seemed consistent throughout most of the year.
According to PR Newswire, tungsten’s price has remained below $200 MTU, and it appears as though it’s been that way through to December. As of December, its prices have hovered between the $182-200 MTU range, most likely as a result of a decrease in Chinese currency bumping up local value.
In that regard, 2016 was a bit of a tough year for the tungsten market despite analysts being more hopeful about the year at the end of 2015. While it was predicted the price would hover around the $250 mark at the end of this year, that certainly hasn’t been the case.
As noted by PR Newswire, high stockpiles have put pressure on its price. In November, concentrate stocks in China were “back to more traditional levels,” and looks to potentially strengthen the price by making the domestic market a priority.
On the mining side, 2016 proved to be a difficult year for developers, including Wolf Minerals (ASX:ALF). In October, the company had to secure a debt restructuring at its Hemerdon mine and, as a result, didn’t meet contract supply obligations.
In China–the world’s largest tungsten producing country–production was down 5.3 percent, year-on-year for the first ten months of 2016, according to Metal Bulletin.
That said, the tungsten outlook for 2017 is looking to be a more positive year for the market.
Tungsten outlook 2017
Looking ahead to 2017, a price recovery and increase in demand appears to be in the cards for the tungsten market, particularly in China. Metal Bulletin projects tungsten concentrate prices in China to sit between 75,000 and 80,000 yuan per ton in 2017–which is higher than the 2016 average.
In the publication, Zhu Xiusheng, chief advisor at Ganzhou Grand Sea W&Mo Group said, “The market still has a lot of inventory, like the stocks bought by the state-owned assets supervision and administration commission of the State Council (SASAC), as well as the stocks at Minmetals and Fanya; costs of all these cargoes are high, some even higher than 90,000 yuan [per tonne].
That said, Almonty Industries (TSXV:AII) announced in November that it had entered into a number of one-year fixed prices for tungsten concentrate for $210 MTU, which are effective as of January 1, 2017.
Lewis Black, president and CEO of Almonty Industries appeared hopeful about the industry moving towards a fixed price.
“We fully expect the rest of the industry to move to a negotiated fixed price contract environment due to the continued limited availability of tungsten concentrate in the spot market and the ongoing illiquidity of the current pricing mechanisms,” he said in the release.
While it seems as though a price recovery is in the works for the tungsten market, it may take some time to come into play.
As noted by PR Newswire, “the intrinsic importance of tungsten to industrial applications will ensure that the sector recovers, however; it is a question of not if, but when.”
That said, investors will have to wait and see for themselves how the market unfolds in 2017.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Jocelyn Aspa, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.