Alumina issuing from refiners in the People’s Republic of China reached four-year highs in October thanks to a global market for the aluminium precursor that has been racked with upheaval and shortage for months.
Per numbers issued by the General Administration of Customs on Friday, last month saw Chinese refiners ship 460,072 metric tons of alumina to overseas buyers, which far surpassed the previous high-water mark according to their records. The department’s next-highest total for alumina exports is September’s total of 165,839 metric tons.
Last month’s jump in total exports of alumina is difficult to overstate. The total far surpasses any previous month in the annals of the Chinese government’s recorded exports, which goes back to at least the summer of 2014. Historically a net importer of alumina, the total shipped last month represented a tremendous reversal, besting the amount imported in 2015, 2016, and 2017 combined. For the year to date, the total tonnage of alumina sold to overseas buyers is just under one million metric tons.
According to CRU analyst Jackie Wang, October’s peak may well be the function of delayed exports from purchases made in prior months, especially in view of the fact of August’s exports of 30 thousand metric tons being notably and unexpectedly smaller.
The alumina market has been in upheaval since this spring, when the twin blows of United States government sanctions on Rusal and production interruptions at Alunorte made supplies of alumina difficult to come by. A strike at Alcoa also contributed to supply problems, helping to push international spot prices for alumina up by 30 percent last quarter.
However, due in part to the end of Alcoa’s strike and an improved outlook for the situations at Alunorte and Rusal, prices have receded by almost as much since the early days of October.