The monthly Aluminum MMI® registered a value of 76 in October, a decrease of 1.3% from 77 in September.
Aluminum prices were more stable in September, only falling slightly from the previous month. This price stabilization is normal after 4 consecutive months of declines. Upside momentum is still lacking and it seems like the bears are firmly in control of this market. The aluminum trend keeps pointing down with no sign of a turnaround.
The Aluminum Association expressed strong concern when the China Non-Ferrous Metal Industry Association (CNIA) called for the removal of a longstanding 15% tax on exported primary aluminum. This would increase the margins of Chinese exporters, potentially exporting more aluminum to international markets. Even with the tax in place, some in the US believe that aluminum producers in China are illegally mislabeling extruded products as semi-finished to avoid exports on billet.
Aluminum exports are up 22% on the year-to-date. Exports dropped over the past 2 months but production still looks high in China, so the drop in exports likely relates more to weaker global demand. Some analysts are waiting for a rebound in exports when final reports from last month come out.
Another interesting highlight of September was that Alcoa, Inc. will split itself into 2 companies. The firm has found that its legacy smelting business, the company’s vertically integrated structure, is not the advantage it once was.
One half retains the Alcoa name and comprises the legacy business of bauxite mining, alumina production and primary aluminum smelting. The second half of the business, or the “value add” business, is yet to be named, although it’s believed to include much of Alcoa’s specialty aluminum business and recent acquisitions such as titanium fabricator RTI.
Two months ago we mentioned the slide in Alcoa shares. Even though the company made good acquisitions and investment in downstream value-added activities, its stock couldn’t buck the falling trend in aluminum prices. On top of that, premiums fell in September below $0.07/lb for the first time since January 2012, hurting the margins of Alcoa and the rest of the US aluminum producers.
Actual Aluminum Prices
- After slightly increasing 0.38%, Chinese aluminum scrap finished the month at $1,777 per metric ton.
- European 5083 plate prices rose by 0.67% to $3,016 per metric ton.
- European 1050 aluminum fell 2.31% over the past month to $2,625 per metric ton.
- At $2.77 per kilogram, Korean 3003 coil premium over 1050 sheet was down 1.77% for the month.
- The LME aluminum primary 3-month contract rose slightly by 0.58% to $1,573/mt.