China imported 1,623 tonnes of cobalt metal in 2019, up 54.6% from 1,050 tonnes in 2018, according to official but unconfirmed data seen by Fastmarkets.
Fourth-quarter shipments totaled 527 tonnes, up 24.3% from 424 tonnes in the third quarter and up eightfold from 58 tonnes in the fourth quarter of 2018.
Chinese appetite for seaborne cobalt metal grew in 2019 due to a narrowing of the import arbitrage loss and even occasional theoretical import profits (such as in February-April and July-August 2019).
The arbitrage between the international standard-grade cobalt benchmark price and Chinese cobalt metal price had remained in negative territory in 2018, with the largest theoretical import loss of over $11 per lb in late November (before import tariffs for certain seaborne cobalt metal brands), according to Fastmarkets calculations.
Moving into 2019, an acceleration...