SHANGHAI, Mar. 27 (SMM) - China's rare earth exports soared in February. According to China Customs, China exported 1,106 mt of rare earth in February, up 289.12% YoY. Market players believe that does not mean overseas demand improves.
After rare earth prices climbed to a high in August 2011, China's rare earth exports had been falling for several consecutive months. China's rare earth exports in 2012 were below 2011 levels, and nearly half of export quotas was vacant. Rare earth exports account for 1/3 of domestic rare earth output, and shrinking overseas demand will negatively affect the rare earth market. But rare earth exports tripled in February after rare earth prices rose to early 2011 levels. Is that because overseas demand improves?
But Gao Yuxin, a rare earth analyst from Ruidow, reported demand for rare earth was still sluggish, and transactions were muted.
Shanghai Heli Rare Earth Material Company engages in rare earth import and export business. According to Manager Yuan, the export data does not mean real demand grows, and rare earth international trade is still sluggish. Most China's rare earth exports were made to Japan. According to a professor from Hirosaki University, Japan reduced rare earth imports two years ago due to high prices, and produced with raw material inventories. There were also large amounts of rare earth smuggled into Japan, with prices very low, which is excluded in regular statistics.
Domestic market was also sluggish. Some rare earth users now began to purchase rare earth but modestly with existing prices.
Demand for rare earth was sluggish due mainly to China's weak rare earth downstream user industries. Half of rare earth is used in new materials, while only Zhongke Sanhuan, Advanced Technology & Materials Company and Ningbo Yunsheng produce rare earth permanent magnetic product. Many China's rare earth permanent magnetic product producers posted losses in 2012. Once overseas market weakened, rare earth industry will be impacted.
Demand for rare earth is now extremely weak. One rare earth trader said they only hope rare earth prices do not fall further.
Neodymium oxide prices have fallen from RMB 1.4 million/mt in August 2011, to RMB 400,000/mt in March. (Edited by SMM)