Uranium Weathers Kazakhstan Storm Clouds

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February 12, 2013 10:13 AM EST

By Andrew Nelson

It was a pretty busy week in the uranium market last week news-wise, although actual market activity was far less interesting. Activity in the spot market was steady, not exciting, with six trades seeing some 800,000 pounds change hands on slightly softening prices.

While trades were being executed, many were keeping at least one eye on the news screens following a number of events that could potentially have significant influence on the market depending upon how they develop. The big issue holding attention was severe storms in Kazakhstan, which saw at least some temporary production shutdowns across the country.

As the news first started to hit the wires, many in the market grew concerned about the prospect of significant production impacts. Such an outcome would almost certainly have a direct impact on spot markets, given the nation's place as the world's largest uranium exporter. But it turns out production stoppages were brief and are expected to cause but little disruption to deliveries.

Yet while there may have been little impact from the storms in Kazakhstan, the market's reaction serves to underscore the growing amount of nervousness at the increasing levels of consolidation within the industry, which is becoming increasingly reliant on a shrinking pool of producing regions and companies.

Industry analyst TradeTech reports that interest within the market is slowly shifting from spot trade to the mid-term market. Prices over the course of last week were unchanged for the most part, but there was a bit of a bump late in the week, which ended up seeing a slight drop in spot price. Traders and intermediaries represented the bulk of the buyers. By the end of last week, TradeTech's Weekly U308 Spot Price Indicator was down US$0.25 to US$43.50 per pound.

Meanwhile, there were a number of transactions reported last week in the mid-term uranium market that involved more than 1m pounds. Yet despite what must have been the busiest week in the mid-term market in a long time, TradeTech's Mid-Term U3O8 Price Indicator was unchanged at US$49.00/lb. There were no deals booked in the long-term market, which means the Long-Term Price Indicator was also unchanged at US$57.00/lb.

There was a bit of news out of Australia that presents fairly mixed implications, at least for Australian investors. BHP Billiton ((BHP)) cut another hundred jobs at the Olympic Dam copper and uranium project in South Australia. Weak commodity prices, especially for uranium, and the strong Australian dollar were blamed for the cuts.

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