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Positive outlook for copper and aluminium in 2018


After a number of difficult years for the non-ferrous sector, the majority of market players can look back on 2017 with a greater degree of satisfaction. However, the year was not without its challenges – including creeping oversupply in some markets and the emergence of harsh import restrictions in China.

LME cash prices are at the following per-tonne levels (the corresponding figures from our non-ferrous metals report of early November are given in brackets): aluminium US$ 2234 (US$ 2187); copper US$ 7048.50 (US$ 6917); lead US$ 2605 (US$ 2451); zinc US$ 3440.50 (US$ 3330); and tin US$ 20 765 (US$ 19 695).


One of the market winners of recent months has been aluminium: prices have risen significantly both for primary metal and scrap; demand remains generally high; and aluminium producers are busy around the world, with extended lead times for certain qualities. According to the World Bureau of Metal Statistics, the global primary aluminium market recorded a shortfall of 1.57 million tonnes for the opening 11 months of 2017 – more than double the deficit for the whole of the previous year.

Production climbed 1% whereas demand advanced by 2.6% to almost 55 million tonnes during last year’s January-November period. In Europe, and more specifically Germany, aluminium wire scrap (Achse) has traded of late in the range Euro 1730-1820 per tonne while aluminium profile scrap (Alter) has fetched Euro 1760-1830 and aluminium turnings (Autor) Euro 1070-1160.

According to data from the US Commerce Department, America’s exports of aluminium scrap surged almost 16% in the first 11 months of last year to approaching 1.5 million short tons; this compares to less than 1.3 million short tons in the corresponding period of the previous year.

When compared to January- November 2016, Chinese imports of US aluminium scrap jumped 17% in the first 11 months of last year to 744 798 tonnes, latest Census Bureau data reveal.

However, US shipments to some of China’s fellow Asian countries climbed even more steeply, including to South Korea (+21% to 160 252 tonnes), India (+28% to 71 387 tonnes) and Indonesia (+45% to 31 410 tonnes).


Conversations within the recycling community have been dominated by the news that, in the first two rounds of 2018 import licence allocations by the…
This article has been published in magazine Recycling International issue February 2018