Uranium prices have rebounded a little in recent months. With spot rates rising to a current $22.75/lb — after falling as low as $18 in late 2016.
But a new plan from the world’s top producer could help get prices moving upward again. As this major plans to increase its presence in buying and selling uranium around the world.
The firm is Kazakhstan state miner KazAtomProm. Which said this past week that it is setting up its first-ever trading subsidiary, to become more active in setting uranium prices.
KazAtomProm’s commercial director Riaz Rizvi told an industry conference late last week that a trading arm based in Switzerland has now been established. With full staffing for the office expected to be completed by the third quarter of this year.
Director Rizvi noted that after that point, KazAtomProm’s uranium traders will become active in the spot market. A fact that could be very significant for uranium prices.
Here’s why: uranium spot prices generally fall well below long-term prices. As the chart below shows, there’s been an approximately $10 to $20 gap between the two marker prices over the past decade.
(Click to enlarge)
Spot uranium prices tend to lag long-term prices by $10 to $20 (source: Cameco)
KazAtomProm sees a big reason for that spread: a lack of trading in the spot market. As Rizvi put it, “The problem is the fact that we are not buying and selling material.” Related: ‘’OPEC Has Failed’’
Rizvi pointed out that in other commodities, long-term prices generally don’t rise much above the cost of storage. If that happens, traders and other market participants simply buy up spot product and keep it, to sell in the future.
KazAtomProm may now be planning to bring such a strategy to uranium. Which could help to narrow the gap between spot and long-term prices — especially given the financial power this big firm has behind it.
That in turn could lead to a significant rise in spot prices. Storage fees for some industry groups runs as little as $0.22/lb yearly — meaning spot rates could rise a lot from the current $10 to $20 discount to long-term, and still offer a profitable arbitrage. Watch for potential changes coming in uranium trade and pricing starting in Q3.
Here’s to stepping into the market.
By Dave Forest
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