Market News

METALS-Aluminium prices plunge as China ramps up coal production

(Updates prices)

LONDON, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Aluminium prices fell sharply on Thursday as China said its coal output had shot up and would continue to rise, helping to ease a power crisis that has forced smelters to reduce production.

China produces more than half the world’s aluminium.

The benchmark contract on the London Metal Exchange (LME) was down 3.7% at $2,559 a tonne at 1743 GMT.

It has tumbled 20% from a 13-year high of $3,229 a tonne in mid-October. Chinese coal prices peaked around the same time and have since fallen by around 50%.

Aluminium production requires huge amounts of electricity. Cheaper and more plentiful coal should mean cheaper and more plentiful power. “Firing up the smelters!!” said a trader in London.

However, China is still short of energy and there is no guarantee that smelters will be first in line for power, said independent analyst Robin Bhar, adding that the market was still undersupplied and prices were unlikely to fall far.

CHINA COAL: China’s daily coal output hit 11.2 million tonnes on Nov. 3, near a record for the year and up by around 1 million tonnes from early October amid a raft of measures to ramp up production, the country’s state planner said.

It also said coal inventories had grown rapidly and output would likely continue to increase, perhaps above 12 million tonnes a day.

POLL: Analysts polled by Reuters last month said they expected the roughly 65 million tonne a year aluminium market to be undersupplied by 893,000 tonnes in 2021 and 396,000 in 2022.

They predicted LME cash aluminium would average $2,695 a tonne next year.

RUSSIA EXPORTS: Expectations that Russia will remove taxes on aluminium exports and boost global supplies have triggered an inventory sell-off, slashing prices in the physical market in Europe and the United States.

METALS PRICES: LME copper was down 0.3% at $9,434 a tonne, zinc was down 2% at $3,240, lead lost 0.8% to $2,354.50 and tin was down 0.3% at $37,000.

Nickel bucked the trend, rising 0.3% to $19,225 a tonne.

Reporting by Peter Hobson; Additional reporting by Mai Nguyen in Hanoi; Editing by Edmund Blair and Kirsten Donovan