Aluminum MMI: November Prices Fall as Sanctions Deadline is Postponed (Again)

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The December Aluminum Monthly Metals Index (MMI) held steady this month at 88.

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LME aluminum prices also fell in November. Aluminum prices appear weaker this month. However, prices have increased so far in December.

Source: MetalMiner analysis of FastMarkets

From last July until November, LME aluminum prices traded in the $1,970-$2,170/mt level. However, prices moved slightly below the $1,970/mt floor in November.

The politics of trade and financial uncertainty in China, rather than supply and demand in the aluminum market, have moved LME price levels.

Rusal Aluminum Market

Russian aluminum giant Rusal’s aluminum profits continue to rise while sanctions continue to get postponed, this time from Dec. 12 to Jan. 7.

Rusal primary aluminum production reached 940,000 tons in Q3, 1% higher year on year. Primary aluminum and alloys sales increased by 8.1% year on year to 1.05 million tons. Rusal aluminum exports increased by 4% in October compared to September.

China Alumina Market

According to the president of Aluminum Corp of China Ltd, alumina exports held steady in October. Chinese aluminum makers have exported unusually high alumina volumes in 2018 due to supply constraints.

Alumina tightness came as a result of the strike at Alcoa’s operations in Western Australia, the outage at the Norsk Hydro Alunorte alumina refinery and U.S. sanctions on Russia’s United Company Rusal.

September alumina exports were five time higher than August, rising to over 165,000 tons. The higher numbers come on the heels of advanced production in September-October before the winter cuts (Nov. 15-March 15).

However, unlike last year, Chinese production in 2018 will not have blanket requirements for 30% output cuts.

SHFE aluminum prices also fell this month, hitting their lowest level since October 2016. Current prices have fallen 13% from the beginning of 2018. SHFE trading volumes fell 37% from this time last year, which means buyer sentiment — and, therefore, prices — have fallen.

Source: MetalMiner analysis of FastMarkets

However, SHFE aluminum prices traded similarly to LME aluminum prices and increased so far in December.

U.S. Domestic Aluminum

The U.S. aluminum Midwest Premium has traded sideways in December.

The current price stands at $0.18/pound, the same level as November, and lower than the $0.20/pound level in April-May 2018. Despite the sideways trend, the current premium remains high.

Source: MetalMiner data from MetalMiner IndX(™)

What This Means for Industrial Buyers

LME aluminum prices appear weaker at this point. Tariffs, sanctions and supply concerns may act as a support to aluminum prices, both for LME aluminum and the U.S. Midwest Premium.

Adapting the right buying strategy becomes crucial to reducing risks.

Only the MetalMiner monthly outlooks provide a continually updated snapshot of the market from which buying organizations can determine when and how much to buy of the underlying metal.

For more information on how to mitigate price risk year-round, request a free trial to our Monthly Metal Buying Outlook.

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Actual Aluminum Prices and Trends

Aluminum prices fell this month, with a closing price in November of $1,950/mt.

Meanwhile, Korean commercial grade 1050 sheet increased by 3.96% to $3.41/kilogram after last month’s downtrend.

Chinese aluminum primary cash prices increased by just 0.28%, while Chinese aluminum bar fell by 1.63%. Chinese aluminum billet prices also decreased, down 3.13% this month to $2,042/mt.

The Indian primary cash price rose by 1.02% to $1.98/kilogram.

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