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US imports of P1020 decline in May as supply remain tight

Highlights

Imports of P1020 from Canada were 107,719 mt

Inventories remain low and demand remains strong

Imports of primary unalloyed aluminum into the US in May declined by 16.9%, to 136,117 mt, from April, as shipments from Canada were down 23.1% at 107,719 mt, the most recent US Census Bureau data showed.

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Shipments of higher purity from origins like the UAE, Russia and India fell 42.3% year on year, as logistical issues and regional tightness due to premiums persisted. Replacement costs in the US are still seen well above current premium levels.

Market sources have said they are "burning through inventory" and are having trouble replacing units even if rising their bid levels.

The same data showed total primary aluminum imports under HTS code 7601 were 314,932 mt, down 0.91% year on year.

Shipments of P1020 or greater purity from Canada reached 105,817 mt but were still down 43.17% year on year. Shipments by rail were down 46.04% year on year at 55,724 mt, while shipments by water were down 39.27% to 47,050 mt. Exports of P1020 from British Columbia to the US were only 6,648 mt, down 26.31% year on year, as no additional tons were seen shipped to Europe in May, according to Canada Statistics.

Canadian P1020 imports accounted for just above 79% of US unalloyed imports for May and 68.55% of the previous 10-year average for the same month.

Imports of ingot from Australia ticked back down by 66.4% month on month to 4,455 mt. No imports from New Zealand were seen during the month, the imports accounted for some of the flow of high purity ingot, P0404, to the US West Coast.

The Platts US Midwest premium reached a record high of 30 cents/lb on July 6, on tight supply, rising freight costs and solid demand expectations through the summer. Along with the uncertainty added to the market from the Russian export tax.

Imports of value-added products, such as billet, foundry alloys and slabs, were up 82.63% year on year in May, as demand continued to firm. Shipments from Canada, the UAE, Russia and Bahrain rounded out the top four as May totaled 177,927 mt.

Imports from Canada of billet, slabs and foundry alloys to the US totaled 92,595 mt, up 103.69% year on year, as alloyed aluminum from Canada could flow into the US duty free and would not fall under the USTR guidance import levels that were set in 2020. Year-to-date imports of slab from Canada were up just over 70% as the tightening scrap market has forced some mills to go out into the spot market for more primary and slab to keep the chemistry mix of products.

Imports of value-added products from Russia continued to flow into the US — up just over 31% year on year through May.

Platts US spot 6063 billet upcharge hit 23 cents/lb on June 17, a record high, and has held there since.