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US imports of unalloyed aluminum continue to rise loosening supply further

Highlights

P1020 imports from Canada continue to rise

Supply increases amid summer slowdown in demand

Primary unalloyed aluminum imports into the US totaled 236,084 mt in June, up 4.4% from May, as shipments from Canada picked up by 18.09% to 183,251 mt, according to the US Census Bureau data.

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Total P1020 imports from January through June jumped 41.64% to 1,073,286 mt, the data showed.

Shipments of higher purity aluminum from origins like the UAE were down 49.7% in June from May as congestion still remains at the ports. Typically higher purity imports from Russia decreased by 10.4% to 2,291 mt during the month.

Market sources continued to barge to some warehouses like Owensboro, Kentucky, which remains tight on supply as well as supply of higher purity aluminum as more scrap is utilized by consumers in order to keep chemistry mixes.

Imports of P1020 coming into New Orleans were at 62,688 mt for May, combined with 40,720 mt coming into Baltimore and 32,488 mt coming into Loredo, Texas. and 30,214 mt into Detroit districts during the same period, recent data showed.

The same data showed total primary aluminum imports under HTS code 7601 were 463,688 mt in June, up 14.2% from May and up 56.33% from year-earlier levels.

Shipments of P1020 from Canada by water were up 21.4% in June month on month, while shipments by rail rose 15.4% month on month.

Exports of P1020 from British Columbia to the US rose to 21,473 mt, up from 7,017 mt in May

Canadian P1020 imports accounted for about 77.62% of US unalloyed imports for June and 73.08% of the previous 10-year average for the same month. Nearly all of that material is produced by hydropower smelters and is considered low carbon, and fall around or below the 4 mtCO2e level for every metric ton across Scope 1 and Scope 2, as Canada continues to sell into the US at duty-paid premium levels supporting the all-in of its aluminum.

Imports of ingot from Australia totaled 31,026 mt in June, down 3.7% from May. The imports, some 28% in May, accounted for some of the flow of high-purity ingot, greater than 99.8%, mainly into New Orleans and Houston and only 1,453 mt entering the West Coast.

Platts assessed US Midwest premium at 27.15 cents/lb on Aug. 5, S&P Global Commodity Insights data showed, as some traders have lowered offers due to their customers being fully committed in order to try and move tonnage as the cost of carry has increased with rising interest rates as well as tightening spreads on the London Metal Exchange.

Three-month prices on the LME continue to trade well below the March highs, last settling at $2,416/mt, falling under macroeconomic pressure with backwardations holding, putting pressure on some traders to move excess tonnage and interest remains to roll premium hedges further down the curve even as stocks continue to draw in LME warehouses.

Some have expressed concerns of macroeconomic effects on demand going forward as demand has softened during the summer months with some consumers taking maintenance and scrap continues to flow freely displacing some demand for primary, which has helped with some regional tightness in aluminum supply.

Value-added product demand softens

Imports of value-added products, such as billet, foundry alloys and slabs, fell 26.6% month on month in June with the demand outlook weakening from construction due to rising interest rates, as well as demand from the auto sector. Shipments from Canada, Bahrain, the UAE and Russia rounded out the top four as June totaled 227,603 mt, up 46.16% year on year.

Imports from Canada of billet, slabs and foundry alloys to the US during the month totaled 95,527 mt, down 4% year on year, as alloyed aluminum from Canada could flow into the US duty-free.

Imports of slabs from Canada during June were up 2% as the prime scrap market remains loose which has kept some consumers' needs for primary lower as they look to utilize more scrap in the push to decarbonization.

Imports of industrial aluminum scrap were up 19.96% so far for 2022, while imports of used beverage cans were down 4.09% though exports have also picked up again, up 61.13% year on year. Scrap exports in total were up 2.91% through June.

Imports of VAP from Russia continued to flow into the US in 2022 and were up 54.45% from year-ago levels to 19,855 mt.

The Platts US spot 6063 billet upcharge held at 28-30 cents/lb, as producers lowered surcharges for hardeners, such as silicon and magnesium, amid lower input costs and increased availability for most products.