LONDON: Prices of aluminium and other industrial metals rose on Wednesday as Ukraine and its Western allies warned that a Russian military pullback was a ploy to refit troops and the dollar weakened, making metals cheaper for non-US buyers.
Russia is a major producer of aluminium, copper and nickel, as well as the gas and coal used to power smelters. Prices of these have risen since Moscow massed troops near Ukraine and invaded on Feb. 24, triggering sanctions and disrupting supply routes.
Benchmark aluminium on the London Metal Exchange (LME) was up 3.3% at $3,549 a tonne at 1552 GMT.
The metal used in packaging, transport and construction is up around 25% this year after rising 42% in 2021, when a supply deficit emerged.
“Metals haven’t really found their feet yet,” said Danske Bank analyst Jens Pedersen.
He said investors were balancing hopes of de-escalation and concerns that COVID-19 outbreaks could reduce Chinese demand with fears of further sanctions, energy price rises and supply disruption.
In the medium term, prices should fall as supply routes adapt, he said.
RUSAL: The world’s largest aluminium producer outside China, Russia’s Rusal, said sanctions may delay investment projects and hit its profitability. The company’s ore shipments from bauxite mines in Guinea have ground to a halt.
GAS: The prospect of gas rationing in Europe appeared as Germany triggered an emergency plan to manage supplies, days after Russia said it would demand payment in roubles.
Elevated gas prices raise the cost of power, which is so high that smelters in Europe have cut output of aluminium and zinc in recent months.
CHINA: COVID-19 control measures are closing some factories in China, the biggest metals consumer. China’s factory activity likely shrank in March, a poll showed.
COPPER CHARGES: China’s top copper smelters have raised their floor treatment and refining charges (TC/RCs) for copper concentrate, sources said, pointing to more plentiful supply.
TIN SPREAD: The premium for cash tin over three-month metal on the LME surged to around $1,000 a tonne, the highest since November, signalling supply tightness.
METALS PRICES: LME copper was up 0.6% at $10,374 a tonne, zinc rose 3.4% to $4,162, nickel gained 3.6% to $32,950, lead was up 1.5% at $2,416 and tin was 0.2% higher at $42,500.