Like nearly all commodities, the price of antimony fell substantially in the last quarter of 2008. Average antimony metal prices fell by 38%. Prices rebounded slightly over the first half of the first quarter as we headed into the Chinese New Year holiday. This is an annual uptick in pricing due to reduced availability of material as manufacturing operations shutdown for the celebration. However, now that plants are coming back online after the holiday, availability and supply are returning to normal so prices have leveled off. Prices have stabilized at a level that is between 2008’s high occurring in September and 2008’s low in December.
It looks as though Chinese manufacturers are restricting exports in an effort to keep inventories, especially in European warehouses, to a minimum. Current equilibrium conditions should hold prices steady or possibly somewhat lower throughout the second quarter of ’09. Of course, this is predicated on the assumption nothing disrupts this equilibrium. A mine closure or similar event could cause prices to increase by 8% or 9%.
The lower metal prices of over the past two quarters is due mostly to a global manufacturing slowdown. There are hopes that the economic stimulus package recently passed by the United States congress will get manufacturing sectors to start producing again. If the stimulus is as effective as is hoped, demand for antimony metal and its derivative products will increase. A price increase of 5% based on increased demand is reasonable. However, from our perch on top of the supply chain, we believe that manufacturing activities will not increase before the third or fourth quarter of 2009.
Antimony bucks commodities tend in economic crisis.
It has become clear that the world has entered an economic downturn that does not appear to leave any industry unscathed. Expect the antimony metal market, that is. Reduced demand in recent weeks for most commodity metals has caused a sharp downturn in price. Many metals are down by 33% or more.
However, the price of antimony has only declined by less than 5%. Most prices are falling due to a lack of demand because of the global recession. The antimony market has seen a lessening of demand as well, but also a large decrease in supply. In early October, the Chinese government closed many small to medium size antimony producers in Hunan province. These operations account for approximately 30% of the world’s antimony supply.
The closures are the result of government led investigations into the presence of arsenic in the environment. Arsenic is a byproduct of the antimony refining process and it appears that high levels of the metalloid have entered the water supply feeding the Zi River in Hunan province. Environmental authorities have closed the operations indefinitely in order to discover how the contamination is happening and how to stop it. Because of the reduced supply, the antimony market has so far avoided the drastic reduction in price of other metals markets.
REACH is a new European Regulation that went into effect on June 1, 2007. REACH stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemical Substances. Although this is a European regulation, it affects any business that does business in Europe or wants to in the future. The main goal of REACH is to identify and classify all chemical substances and materials that come into any EU nation in order to protect the health of EU residents and their environment better. But what does it mean to a small American business like ours?
Since we have no European subsidiary or division of our business, we are required to appoint an Only Representative within the EU that can pre-register and register on our behalf any chemicals, chemical mixtures, or substances that we sell into the EU in a quantity greater than one ton. Of course, the pre-registration and registration has a cost associated with it. Pre-registration consists of identifying the chemicals and substances we sell into the EU and in what quantity. The deadline for pre-registration is November 30, 2008. Registration deadlines range from 2010 to 2018 depending on the volume and hazard level of the substance. Our Only Representative will be responsible for reporting any chemicals or substances that we export to the EU in quantities greater than one ton in exchange for a yearly fee.
Amspec found and hired an Only Representative and we have filed the necessary paperwork to pre-register the products that we currently sell into the EU. For now, that is all that we need to do. We will keep you posted as the registration process progresses and let you know any major hurdles we encounter. Good luck with your REACH experience and please let us know anything interesting you come up against or if you have any tips to share.