LONDON — Aluminum prices fell on Tuesday, with investors worried that a collapse in demand will cause huge oversupply, while other industrial metals rose as some countries eased coronavirus lockdown measures.
Benchmark aluminum on the London Metal Exchange (LME) was down 0.5% at $1,475 a tonne at 1050 GMT, nearing a four-year low of $1,455 touched on April 8.
The metal used in packaging and transportation has tumbled around 20% since mid-January as the coronavirus pandemic shuttered global industry.
But global output has risen, and analysts at ING said they expected a surplus of 1.5 million tonnes this year in the roughly 60-million tonne a year market.
“This month will be critical for aluminum as we wait and see if China’s market can continue its recovery, and whether demand growth from the rest of the world finds a bottom,” ING said.
“Prices, particularly in China’s market, have yet to fully appreciate the damage in trade, suggesting the risk of another leg down.”
China is the biggest aluminum producer and consumer, and began to emerge from coronavirus lockdown earlier than other countries.
TECHNICALS: Speculators expect prices to fall. Their net short position in LME aluminum was equal to 48% of open contracts on Friday, brokers Marex Spectron said.
SPREAD: The discount of cash aluminum versus three-month metal on the LME rose to $40.15, the most since 2015, suggesting plentiful nearby supply.
STOCKS: Inventories in LME warehouses have risen to 1.36 million tonnes from under a million tonnes in mid-March, while stocks in Shanghai Futures Exchange stores are down around 120,000 tonnes from mid-March to 410,543 tonnes.
LOCKDOWNS: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined a phased reopening of business activity. California may allow some retail business to resume this week. Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and India are also cautiously lifting some restrictions.
MARKETS: The easing of lockdowns helped global equities snap a three-day losing streak and oil prices rise as much as 8%.
DOLLAR: The U.S. dollar strengthened, with the euro falling after a German constitutional court ruled that the Bundesbank must stop buying government bonds if the European Central Bank cannot prove those purchases are needed.
UK: Britain’s economy is on course for an unprecedented 7% quarterly contraction and its new car sales slumped by 97% in April.
U.S. FACTORIES: New orders for U.S.-made goods suffered a record decline in March.
TRADE WAR: The Trump administration is “turbocharging” an initiative to remove global industrial supply chains from China as it weighs new tariffs on Beijing, officials said.
OTHER METALS: LME copper was up 0.3% at $5,139 a tonne, zinc rose 0.3% to $1,905.50, nickel gained 0.4% to $11,860, lead added 0.5% to $1,637.50 and tin was 0.7% higher at $15,185.