LME aluminum

Weak demand, a flood of Chinese exports and robust Western supply, in spite of earlier smelter closures, have created a perfect storm of surplus in the aluminum market.


Shares of Alcoa Inc. stock have been collapsing over the past few months, falling more than 20% in only 8 weeks.

Alcoa’s Slide

The aluminum giant, with earnings ahead on Wednesday, has experienced powerful earnings growth over the past four quarters; however, lower aluminum prices are weighing on its stock price.

Alcoa Inc (AA) Stock Price 2 years out

Alcoa, Inc. (AA) Stock Price 2 years out. Chart: MetalMiner.

It should come as no surprise that the monthly Aluminum MMI® registered a value of 83 in July, a decrease of 3.5% from 86 in June.

Download MetalMiner’s July Metal Price Forecast

World aluminum production in May is up almost 12% year-on-year. That is the fastest growth rate since 2011.

LME Price Falling

Aluminum on the London Metal Exchange is back again below $1,700 per metric ton. This level acted as a floor in March 2014 and Alcoa investors are wondering if aluminum prices will rebound again this time, which would give a boost to Alcoa’s shares.

Unfortunately aluminum prices might need to fall further in order to cause further non-Chinese closures to balance the market. Furthermore, the Chinese stock market is having a rough go of it. The Shanghai index is off over 30% from highs reached in June. Finally, the fact that commodity prices keep falling across the board makes a rebound in aluminum prices more unlikely. Aluminum buyers and Alcoa investors might want to think twice before betting on a rebound in prices…

The Aluminum MMI® collects and weights 12 global aluminum price points to provide a unique view into aluminum price trends over a 30-day period. For more information on the Aluminum MMI®, how it’s calculated or how your company can use the index, please drop us a note at: info (at) agmetalminer (dot) com.

Free Download: Compare With the June MMI Report


Aluminum has had quite a depressing month.

A flood of Chinese exports, weak demand and robust Western supply in spite of earlier smelter closures have all contrived to leave the market in primary surplus. As such, MetalMiner’s monthly Aluminum MMI®, tracking aluminum prices across the globe, registered a value of 86 in June, a decrease of 4.4% from 90 in May.

Compare with last month’s trends – download the free May MMI report.

China’s aluminum output rose to a record 2.59 million tons in April, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The world simply can’t rely on China to restrain output. Prices might need to fall further in order to cause further non-China closures to balance the market. Rusal cited the rising tide of Chinese aluminum exports as a main concern in the producer’s first-quarter earnings report, which could increase in light of China removing a 15% export tax on aluminum products.

In the absence of demand from the financial sector, both the LME/CME price and physical delivery premiums have been falling, particularly in Asia.

Aluminum Premiums for Physical Delivery: Takin’ a Dive!

As I wrote on the blog recently, Reuters reported this week that premiums have dropped to $100-110 per metric ton for in-warehouse Singapore metal, down from $150 two weeks ago and $400 in December. In South Korea, May tenders were said to be awarded at $135-145 per metric ton and the country is sitting on nearly half a million tons of primary metal inventory. Premiums have dropped in Europe and North America, too, but are said to be stabilizing for the time being, although most are expecting further falls in North America.

Interestingly, the LME has returned to a healthy forward price curve, as it did in times of plenty from 2009-2014 when the stock and finance trade flourished, soaking up excess supply.

With such a strong forward curve and low interest rates, all it needs is a little appetite from the hedge funds and banks, with some encouragement from warehouse companies to store metal, and bingo! Excess inventory rapidly gets sucked up into long-term storage.

According to Reuters, some warehouse companies are starting to offer incentives or discounts on storage costs of around $70 to draw in metal. The foundations are in place for a pick-up in stock and finance activity, and the possibility that “demand” created by that activity could support premiums at least at or around current levels and potentially, at least in Asia, raise them up.

Most are expecting LME prices to fall further; it is entirely possible LME prices could fall while physical delivery premiums could rise. That was exactly the situation we had in 2012-13 and the LME changed its rules to avoid it. The next six months could test the system, let’s see.

What It Means for Semi-Finished Aluminum Markets

The combination of lower LME prices and falling physical delivery premiums have allowed producers of semi-finished products to chase a weak market down, a process hastened by rising supply from China.

Semi-finished product makers’ conversion premiums have also been soft in the face of a well-stocked distribution market and slack end-user demand, a situation that, as we enter the summer period, is unlikely to turn around before the fourth quarter.

Exact Aluminum Price Movements Over the Month

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MetalMiner’s aluminum price index, the monthly Aluminum MMI®, registered a value of 90 in May, a significant increase of 2.3% from 88 in April.

Aluminum on the London Metal Exchange is back above $1,900 per metric ton, breaking short-term resistance to hit a four-month high.

China Ends Export Taxes

China erasing aluminum export taxes didn’t seem to weigh down on prices; however, aluminum premiums took a beating when the news of China’s removal of export taxes came.

As my colleague Stuart Burns wrote in a recent article, the tax removal should reduce the domestic surplus of metal, supporting domestic prices and depressing prices in overseas markets. With current primary production counting for about 75% of total primary capacity, Chinese producers will have the ability to increase production without creating any shortages in China’s domestic market.

Even outside China, production has been ramping up over the past six months. UC Rusal and Alcoa, Inc. have responded by closing older and less-efficient capacity, but even so, both they and other primary producers are investing in new capacity at the same time. Demand for aluminum remains robust, but the excess of supply is something that is clearly bugging aluminum producers.

Certainly, the supply outlook doesn’t explain the recent price increase. However, the recent weakness in the dollar does. The dollar index is experiencing some turbulence for the first time in more than 9 months and that supported aluminum and most industrial metal prices in April.

Battery Research Continues

In other aluminum news this month we also had Stanford University  building an aluminum-ion battery prototype that offers various improvements over lithium-ion batteries. These aluminum-ion batteries will potentially make consumer electronics safer, charge faster and allow thinner or even flexible-form factors.

Get all of this month’s exact prices in the full article.


Aluminum has slowly and quietly regained some of the price strength it closed out 2014 with, but that might not be enough to pull the light metal out of this bear market.

The monthly Aluminum MMI® registered a value of 88 in April, an increase of 1.1% from 87 in March.

The Strongest of A Weak Metals Field

Aluminum prices remained rangebound in March. Compared to the rest of base metals, though, aluminum is holding its price very well. Indeed, aluminum and zinc are the only metals that haven’t made multi-year lows yet in 2015. Demand growth in the automotive and aerospace sectors has helped the metal to hold onto its value.

Free Download: Cut Your Aluminum Shipping Costs

Aluminum lost most of its gains in the second half of 2014. In Q1 2015, prices remained rangebound as oil prices stabilized and the dollar caught a breath. What should we expect for the rest of the year?


Alcoa Inc. said it would acquire Pittsburgh-based RTI International Metals Inc., one of the world’s biggest makers of fabricated titanium products for the aerospace and automotive industries, in a transaction with an enterprise value of $1.5 billion.

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For New York-based Alcoa, the world’s biggest aluminum producer by value, the stock-for-stock deal is part of its strategy to focus more on manufactured products for the aerospace and automotive industries.

Alcoa wants to become less reliant on its old-fashioned smelting business, which is suffering from weak prices for raw aluminum. Alcoa on Friday said it would look at closing up to 14% of raw smelting capacity. Since 2007, it has taken almost a third of its smelting capacity out of production.

RTI shareholders will receive 2.8315 Alcoa shares for each RTI share, representing a value of $41 per RTI share based on Alcoa’s closing price on Friday. RTI shares, which closed Friday at $27.28, jumped 28% to $35 in premarket trading Monday


Alcoa Inc. on Friday said it is considering curtailing aluminum smelting and refining operations via closures and divestment as part of a continuing effort to improve its profitability.

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Over the next year, Alcoa said it would consider curtailing, shutting down or shedding up to 14% of its global smelting capacity and 16% of its refining capacity. The company said has already idled some of its operations.

The New York-based aluminum firm with major operations in Pittsburgh has been benefiting from past efforts to close unprofitable smelters in high-cost areas. The company said it has curtailed, closed or sold about 31% of its highest-cost global smelting capacity since 2007.


This week the London Metal Exchange and several Wall Street banks saw an aluminum price lawsuit by purchasers thrown out by a Federal Judge in New York.

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US District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan rejected claims brought by aluminum purchasers against several defendants including Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Glencore Plc, and Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd., which owns the London Metal Exchange.

Forrest said she will issue a decision later involving other defendants, including Detroit-based warehouse operator Metro International, which Goldman once owned.


Aluminum giant Novelis and German supplier Henkel said today they have signed an agreement to develop advanced bonding technologies for aluminum-intensive vehicles.

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The first product, a pre-treatment that enhances the adhesion of glue and helps paint stick to aluminum, is already being vetted by automakers. Called Bonderite M-NT 8453, it would compete with and in some cases replace a similar product called Alcoa 951, which is the current industry standard coating for aluminum.


MetalMiner’s monthly aluminum price index, the Aluminum MMI®, fell to 87 in March, a decrease of 2.2% from 89 in February. Aluminum price drops nearly across the board – namely the LME aluminum 3-month price, which fell to its lowest since April 2014 – accounted for the latest hit:

However, even this aluminum fall is minimal compared to the losses of our other metals.

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The London Metal Exchange (LME) keeps moving forward with reform of its warehouse rules. As my colleague Stuart recently explained in a post, a definition on what load-out means has been accepted. Now metal cannot be merry-go-rounded within the same facility and by the same owner.

The long-awaited aluminum premium contract will be launched on October 26. We will have to wait to see how this impacts delivery premiums.

On the production side, non-Chinese aluminum production was unchanged in January, according to the latest figures from the International Aluminum Institute (IAI). Producers are still holding aluminum capacity line in terms of keeping smelters offline in the face of low prices and historical stock overhang.

The IAI was also in the news early last month because it stopped production of its monthly producer inventory figures, saying its own members are either not submitting the data at all or struggling to do so on a timely basis.


A federal judge has dismissed antitrust litigation accusing a variety of Wall Street banks and commodity merchants of conspiring to drive up aluminum prices by reducing supply.

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In decisions on Tuesday night and Wednesday, US District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan rejected claims brought by aluminum purchasers against several defendants including Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Glencore Plc, and Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd., which owns the London Metal Exchange.

Forrest said she will issue a decision later involving other defendants, including Detroit-based warehouse operator Metro International, which Goldman once owned.

The decisions are a setback for aluminum purchasers who raised price-fixing claims, in the highest-profile litigation affecting the base metals market in two decades.

These plaintiffs had accused Wall Street banks and commodity merchants of having colluded since May 2009 to hoard aluminum in warehouses. They said this led to higher storage costs, delays of up to 16 months to fill orders, and increases in prices of industrial products from soft drink cans to airplanes.