Alexander Chudaev/Adobe Stock

The August Aluminum Monthly Metals Index (MMI) fell two points last month. The current Aluminum MMI index now stands at 93 points.

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LME aluminum prices fell in July. However, the rate of the declines has slowed. Price changes do not appear to be sharp and selling trading volume remains weak. The price decrease looks like a retracement after the peak in April due to Russian sanctions.

Source: MetalMiner analysis of FastMarkets

LME aluminum prices have fallen again toward the stiff support level that aluminum prices had during 2017 and 2018. LME aluminum prices fell towards that support level in December 2017, in April 2018 and back again in July 2018. However, aluminum prices rebounded each time (and again in July) from that level.

How aluminum prices react to this stiff support level will give some insight on upcoming aluminum price movements. Buying organizations will want to follow aluminum price movements closely to identify the perfect moment to buy forward and lock prices.

Chinese Aluminum

Chinese aluminum output increased by 1.6% in June, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

The gradual ramp-up of new smelting capacity has increased production. The daily output figure increased to 94,000 tons in June versus the previous 90,000 in May, signaling an increase of 0.8% year on year.

Chinese increased exports received a boost from a favorable price arbitrage, with a weaker yuan. Exports reached 510,000 tons in June, the second-highest figure on record.

U.S. Domestic Aluminum

As a result of the ongoing uncertainty in the aluminum market, U.S. aluminum Midwest premiums have skyrocketed this year.

August’s premiums, however, have started to decrease, sitting at $0.19/pound. The current premium has slid to April 2018 levels, but still appear close to its four-year high at $0.20/pound.

Source: MetalMiner data from MetalMiner IndX(™)

What This Means for Industrial Buyers

Despite the recent downtrend, the LME aluminum price trend suggests a continuation of the bull market that started last year.

Adapting the right buying strategy is crucial to reduce risks. Buying organizations that want to start doing so now may want to take a free trial now to our Monthly Metal Buying Outlook.

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Actual Aluminum Prices and Trends

The metals in the Aluminum MMI basket generally fell this month.

LME aluminum prices decreased this month by 3.88%, with a closing price in July of $2,076/mt. Meanwhile, Korean Commercial 1050 sheet traded flat in August, with a reading of $3.57/kilogram.

Chinese aluminum primary cash prices increased by 0.361%, while China aluminum bar fell 5.33%. Chinese aluminum billet prices also decreased 5.33% this month, to $2,197/mt.

The Indian primary cash price fell by 3.27% to $2.07/kilogram.

The Stainless Steel Monthly Metals Index (MMI) fell again this month. The slide of four points moved the index to 78 from the previous 82 reading. The index fell back to May 2018 levels.

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The index dropped due to a slight fall in LME nickel prices in July. However, LME nickel prices seem to have recovered again. Stainless steel surcharges also fell this month.

However, stainless steel surcharges remain in a strong uptrend.

LME Nickel

In July, nickel price momentum slowed slightly.

However, LME nickel prices — and the base metals complex, in general — are showing strength so far again this month.

Despite the two-month downtrend, nickel prices have remained in an uptrend since last summer (June-July), when prices started to increase sharply.

Source: MetalMiner analysis of FastMarkets

Prices fell starting in June 2018 from the $15,895/mt level toward the current $13,825/mt level. Buying volume appears stronger than selling volume and, therefore, supports the uptrend.

A fundamental tightness in the nickel market could also add more support to nickel prices.

The Philippines government confirmed that just 23 out of the 27 mines that operate in the world’s second-largest nickel-producing country will continue to operate. The remaining four will likely close. The decision comes from a previous report (released in July).

Domestic Stainless Steel Market

Domestic stainless steel surcharges fell for the first time since the beginning of the year.

The 316/316L-coil NAS surcharge fell to $1/pound, while the 304/304L decreased to 0.73/pound.

Source: MetalMiner data from MetalMiner IndX(™)

The pace of stainless steel surcharge increases seems to have slowed this month, along with steel (and stainless steel) price increases. However, stainless steel surcharges remain in a clear uptrend and are well above 2015-2017 lows.

What This Means for Industrial Buyers

Stainless steel price momentum slowed down slightly this month. However, both steel and nickel remain in a bull market.

Therefore, buying organizations may want to follow the market closely for opportunities to buy on the dips.

To understand how to adapt buying strategies to your specific needs on a monthly basis, take a free trial of our Monthly Outlook now.

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Actual Stainless Steel Prices and Trends

Both Chinese 304 stainless steel coil and Chinese 316 stainless steel coil prices fell this month by 2.78%.

Chinese Ferrochrome prices decreased this month by 2.04%, to $1,930/mt.

Nickel prices fell 7.33% to $13,900/mt.