December 19, 2017 / 10:43 AM / 2 years ago

METALS-Prospect of slower supply growth helps aluminium to 3-week peak

* LME/ShFE arb:

* GRAPHIC-2017 asset returns:

* Aluminium stocks in ShFE warehouses at record highs (Updates with closing prices)

By Pratima Desai

LONDON, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Aluminium prices touched a three-week peak on Tuesday as the prospect of slower supply growth from top producer China prompted investors to buy, but the likelihood of a surplus next year capped gains.

Benchmark aluminium on the London Metal Exchange closed up 1.2 percent at $2,099 a tonne after touching its highest since Nov. 29. It has risen more than 20 percent so far this year on expectations of a tighter market.

“China has this year taken out 8 percent of aluminium capacity. It looks highly unlikely this capacity will be allowed to restart in 2018,” said CRU Group analyst Eoin Dinsmore.

“We expect Chinese aluminium production growth at 5 percent next year and the year after, down on what we’ve seen in recent years ... But China will continue to produce more than it consumes next year.”

IAI: Data from the International Aluminium Institute showed China produced 16.7 million tonnes in the first half of 2017, a rise of 1 percent from the second half of last year. That compares with a rise of 10 percent in the second half of last year from the first half.

OUTPUT: China last year accounted for 55 percent of global output estimated at nearly 59 million tonnes against 11 percent of 25 million tonnes at the turn of the millennium.

STOCKS: Aluminium stocks in warehouses monitored by the Shanghai Futures Exchange at a record 736,389 tonnes suggest surpluses, analysts say.

ENVIRONMENT: China’s war on pollution has involved clamping down on unauthorised aluminium capacity and carrying out inspections to ensure facilities meet the required standards.

BULLS VS BEARS: “Bears maintain the cuts the Chinese have been putting through are going to be more than offset by new production,” INTL FCStone analyst Edward Meir said in a note.

“Bulls argue the cuts will not only stick, but will likely expand as well as the government maintains its pollution fight. We think there is a good chance the government could move again, especially if it sees no meaningful decline in overall production levels — or pollution readings.”

BATTERIES: Lead ended down 0.4 percent at $2,552. It touched $2,567 on Monday, its highest since Oct. 16, boosted by expectations of strong demand from auto battery makers over the winter.

WARRANTS: A large position holding between 50 and 80 percent of lead warrants and short term contracts is fuelling worries about shortages on the LME market. <0#LME-WHL>

The premium for the cash MPB0-3 over the three-month contract rose to $24 a tonne at the close on Monday before falling back to $6.75.

OTHER METALS: Copper finished up 0.5 percent at $6,942 a tonne, zinc closed 0.2 percent higher at $3,201, tin ended flat at $19,355 and nickel fell 0.6 percent to $11,755.

Additional reporting by Peter Hobson; Editing by Mark Potter and Jane Merriman

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