Cobalt metal prices have staged a modest recovery to a
low-grade range of $13-80-15.10 per lb, after they plunged to
$13.20-14.25 in March, their lowest levels in nearly two years.
But where will cobalt prices move next, after the recent climb
Last month, Metal Bulletin polled cobalt consumers, producers
and traders across the globe to reveal where the industry's key
participants forecast prices will move in 2012.
A bearish sentiment prevailed, with a significant majority
(88%) of participants expecting prices to remain stable or move
down between now and December 2012.
End-of-year price expectations varied greatly across the
sector, however, with some participants forecasting a December
ceiling of $10 per pound (low-grade low), while others expected
a top of $20.
Half the respondents thought low-grade low prices would
remain relatively stable for the rest of the year at between
$13 and $16.
Around 38% believed that prices would fall below $13 by
December. The remaining 12% expected higher numbers by
The majority of survey respondents believed that although
demand is still reasonably strong, too much material is
available at present to sustain a rally.
With further supplies expected to come on-stream later in the
year, one respondent wrote: "Rallies cannot be maintained".
The recent price rebound, considered by some sources as
sustainable due to strengthening battery demand, has been
dismissed by others as no more than a blip in a downward
What to watch
Trade participants pointed to several factors that might turn
the market in 2012.
The timing of the arrival of new supplies to the market, the
position of Glencore as a trader or producer, and growing
battery demand are among the key drivers of cobalt prices for
the remainder of 2012.
Trade participants also drew attention to China
, where surplus
metal and high stocks dominate discussions
they did last year.
Respondents also noted that Chinese concentrate imports dropped
dramatically in January, with some expressing concern over
But strong growth in the battery sector will continue to
provide support for prices this year, sources said
Attention will now turn to new production sources due to come
on-stream this year.
The timing of the arrival of new production, particularly at Sherritt's Ambatovy project in Madagascar
will play a key role in defining market sentiment.