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Analysts say jury is still out on bigger aluminum trends

Nov 23, 2015 | 03:03 PM | Fastmarkets AMM staff

Tags  Moody’s Investors Service, Ducker Worldwide, Aluminum Association, imports???

“It’s a little bit premature to think that aluminum has turned the corner,” Carol Cowan, senior vice president of Moody’s Investors Service Inc., told AMM. “We’re not going to take a lot of comfort from a one-month statistic change.”

“We would still see the market overall as potentially being in surplus,” Cowan said of 2016 supply levels, noting that Moody’s does not believe curtailments in China are sufficient to curb a surplus, and that aluminum can find other ways into the market, such as unfavorable contangos and higher interest rates driving into the market metal tied up in financial deals. “We see challenges for aluminum. We’ve seen them for a number of years,” he said.

Earlier this year, Troy, Mich.-based research firm Ducker Worldwide LLC questioned if a supply glut would overhang automotive aluminum sheet by as early as 2017. Ducker’s query was prompted by the possibility that Revolution Aluminum LLC, then known as American Specialty Alloys Inc., would complete its $2.4-billion Pineville, La., mini-mill and begin production by 2017, a scenario that no longer appears likely.

Other analysts have told AMM that they are still forecasting a global aluminum surplus for 2016, even if it’s not as severe as the 2.1-million-tonne surplus forecast by Harbor Aluminum Intelligence Unit LLC in July

North American aluminum imports fell in August, although analysts cautioned that the trend does not mean the aluminum market has “turned the corner.”

Imports of aluminum ingot, scrap and mill products by the United States and Canada totaled 422 million pounds, down 8.6 percent from 462 million pounds in August last year, according to data compiled by the Aluminum Association.

Year-to-date imports of 4.25 billion pounds were up 14.3 percent from the first eight months of last year, while North American aluminum consumption increased 6.9 percent to 13.5 billion pounds in the same comparison.

Meanwhile, exports totaled 556 million pounds in August, down 20.1 percent from a year earlier. Aluminum scrap accounted for 58 percent of the total, the Aluminum Association said Oct. 13.

The industry association previously announced that shipments by North American producers was relatively flat in August, with sheet and plate shipments of 717.3 million pounds up just 0.6 percent from 713.3 million pounds in August 2014.

The changing trend in aluminum imports came amid a widening discrepancy in aluminum supply forecasts for 2015 and beyond.


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