LONDON, July 9 -- Minor metals mostly traded flat to lower over the last week, as the traditional summer lull hit volumes and pushed prices lower, although antimony bucked the trend on persistent supply worries.
Metals demand is starting to slow as many factories and consumers close for the summer holiday season, with an eventual pick-up expected in late August.
Bucking the trend, antimony grade 99.65, used as a fireproofing ingredient, rose to about $8,200 a tonne from $8,000 a tonne last week.
"The Chinese are getting very excited," said a trader. "There is a bit of panic in the market because the Chinese aren't offering.
"Last time it happened there was genuine demand, but at the moment it's July and nobody is really in the market."
The toxic metal had soared to a record high at $9,550 a tonne in early May after an environmental and health and safety crackdown in the Hunan province in top producer China.
But the metal had eased back in recent months, as traders tried to decipher the ultimate impact on supplies of the closures.
"It appears the boys from Beijing turned up and whereas (the) provincial government thought they had 18 months to implement changes, Beijing said no -- now," another trader said.
Among other metals, Tungstate APT traded at about $240 a tonne versus $233.50 a tonne last week. Used as a steel ingredient and in aerospace applications, the metal traded at its highest level since November 2008.
"There has been some flooding in the Jiangxi region, which has tightened things up a little bit," said one trader.
Volatile tantalite prices remain in focus, with traders pointing to a lack of material from non-conflict countries.
Tantalite, which is used to make tantalum metal for aerospace and computer manufacturing, traded at around $64 a lb from about $62.50 a lb last week. The metal hit a nineyear high at $65 a lb in late June.
"There are only a few traders holding stocks and they are now trying to take advantage," said one trader. "It is all manipulated but in a few weeks time these guys will have no stocks anymore."
Last month, Australian miner Talison Tantalum said it was considering restarting its Wodgina mine, formerly the world's top producer, in mid-2011 on expectations of higher demand and rising prices.
The mine in northwest Australia in late 2008 suspended production of tantalum, due to a combination of oversupply and reduced demand in the global economic downturn.
Looking ahead, traders see possible gains in the price of aluminum by-product gallium, in the coming weeks.
Gallium, used in optoelectronic devices such as light emitting diodes (LEDs) traded at its highest level since March 2009 at about $475 a kg from around $752.50 a kg the week before.
"There is no material around," said a trader. "The Chinese have sold out for prompt and the LED manufacturers are expected to be in the market soon.
"The refiners are struggling to find the material that they regularly knock on the door and get. It's a small market, it's one of these exotic electronic metals, but difficult to find when you need it."
At 1517 GMT, three-month cobalt, used as a battery material, was traded at $37,500 a tonne versus $37,400 a tonne on June 30.
Three-month molybdenum futures, used at make steel, was quoted at $30,250/$32,000 a tonne, from a trade at $37,100 on July 2.