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Tin demand slumps, orders deferred

Keywords: Tags  tin, tin premiums, electronics, food, canning, steel mill, LME, London Metal Exchange Suzy Waite

NEW YORK — Spot demand for tin remains extremely weak in the United States, with some consumers even requesting to take less contracted material or deferring orders, traders told AMM.

“We just haven’t seen much interest at all,” one trader said. “One of the steel mills we do business with cut back on their contract because one of their largest customers (who supplies the canning industry) asked to cut back.”

The trader was “kind of surprised,” he said, adding, “I thought food (demand) stayed constant.”

“Most people are canceling or deferring (orders),” a second trader said. “They just don’t need (tin). It seems like things are on the back burner.”

A third trader told AMM that April has been slightly better than March, but added, “It’s still too quiet. Way too quiet.” The trader speculated that customers had overbought, but added, “I didn’t see a flurry of activity in the fourth quarter, either.”

Premiums for Grade A tin remain between $600 to $750 per tonne as a result of tepid spot activity and a decline in tin prices on the London Metal Exchange.

Three-month tin prices on the LME are down 8.5 percent at $23,020 per tonne April 8 from this year’s high of $25,150 per tonne Jan. 17.

Consumers may be waiting for a further decline, sources said.

“People could still be waiting for the price to fall down even lower. It’s hanging around ($23,000 per tonne). I don’t see it going up anytime soon,” the third trader said. “But there’s no long-term business at all. No one is coming in looking to fix prices. And no one’s coming in to buy forward at any quantity at all.”

Slower-than-expected growth in Asia coupled with the ongoing debt crisis in Europe could be affecting tin markets, the first trader said, adding that it’s only a matter of time until the United States feels an impact. “Asia is bad and Europe is bad. It’s all going to spill over,” the first trader said. “I think it could be a very difficult year. People will just have to dig their heels in and not worry about it. There’s not much else you can do.”

“The whole first quarter was not what I anticipated it to be, and the fourth quarter was off,” the third trader said. “You expect things to be off in December, then pick up in January and February and then roar in March. But March was horrible. ... In the end, business will be pushed forward, but that doesn’t help us. Everyone has a business plan, and that business plan has gone to hell in a handbasket.”

He added, “You can say no to someone when they come looking to buy, but you can’t make someone buy.”

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