April 22, 2018, 2:58 am
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1 Philippine Peso = 1 Philippine Peso
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Aluminum posts jump on Rusal sanctions

LONDON- Aluminum hit a six-year high and posted its biggest weekly gain since the current contract was launched, after the United States imposed sanctions on Russia’s UC Rusal, the world’s second-biggest producer.

Traders have scrambled to stockpile aluminum this week, given concerns that the removal of Rusal metal from the market would further tighten availability.

“If you look at the scope of Rusal supply, they were a very cost-efficient supplier and a very substantial one, and they were well meshed into a lot of other manufacturers downstream,” Natixis analyst Cameron Karami said.

“If Rusal supply does (largely) go out of the market, ie, if they can’t continue to sell via a third party, that will lead to a meaningful deficit, and that is certainly still positive for prices.”

On-warrant aluminum stocks in London Metal Exchange warehouses, or metal available to the market, fell nearly 100,000 tons, exchange data showed on Friday, almost the same quantity as was added to headline stocks the previous day.

Traders say the aluminum delivered to LME warehouses this week was probably produced by Rusal and that the cancelled warrants -- material earmarked for delivery and no longer available -- are likely to represent metal from other companies. 

Meanwhile, China’s aluminum exports hit their highest in nine months in March as strong international prices led the world’s biggest producer to sell more abroad, despite a growing trade spat with the United States.

The impact of a new US import tariff was limited as it only took effect from March 23, traders and analysts said, while China’s exports could rise further in coming months as US sanctions on Russia’s United Company Rusal upend international trade flows.

Unwrought aluminum and aluminum product exports rose 10.2 percent from a year ago to 452,000 tons last month, the General Administration of Customs said on Friday, the fourth-highest monthly total on record.

Steel exports, however, fell 25.3 percent last month from a year earlier to 5.65 million tons as China curbed production to tackle smog, driving up local prices. 

The United States imposed a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports on March 23 along with a 25 percent duty on steel imports. US President Donald Trump called for the tariffs to protect US metal makers from cheap imports.

March aluminum exports were 22.2 percent higher than February’s 370,000 tons, customs said. Steel exports were up 16.6 percent from 4.85 million tons in February.

Chinese aluminum prices have been capped by strong supply, likely leading producers to seek better margins abroad where the metal is in demand, said Helen Lau, an analyst at Argonaut Securities. 

“You may see more exports from China in April because the global shortage will be worsened,” Lau added, referring to the US sanctions on Rusal, one of the world’s top aluminum producers.

“In case Russia flooded China with its cheap aluminum - as they have no alternative export destinations other than China ... then China would have to export,” Lau said.

For steel, prolonged environmental restrictions in some major Chinese steelmaking hubs have curbed supplies after mills were ordered to shut some production to reduce emissions.

Traders and analysts expect more cities to impose restrictive environmental policies as part of Beijing’s campaign to curb air pollution, which may further rein in steel output and support domestic steel prices.  – Reuters
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