2017 REVIEW: Ali climbs 34% in 2017; base metals complex strong but a year to forget for tin

2017 was a strong year for base metals on the London Metal Exchange with zinc, copper and aluminium all setting multi-year highs.

The latest rally took place within the last few days of the year, with aluminium climbing to a yearly high of $2,290 per tonne on the last trading day of 2017, and just in time to make it the strongest performer of the year.

“Copper [was] trading close to a four-year high at just shy of $7,300 per tonne after having exceeded the $7,000 mark the week before Christmas and closing the year 31% up. This did not make copper the best-performing base metal in 2017,” Commerzbank’s research note said.

“However, it came in ‘only’ in second place – after aluminium, which slipped past copper in a final spurt. At nearly $2,300 per tonne, it not only achieved its highest price since March 2012 by the end of the year, but also gained a considerable 34% overall last year,” it added.

Copper prices looked as though they had peaked in the summer after they hit their highest since November 2014 in early August, but the metal continued to strengthen and peaked again in December.

The red metal hit a high of $7,731.50 on December 28, its highest in four years, supported by bullish sentiment for the new year. Threats of industrial action continue to support copper, with nearly 40 labor contracts due for renewal in 2018 – the highest level since 2008.

LME Week was the catalyst that led zinc and nickel to rally higher, with both metals booming following the industry meet-up in London this year.

Nickel got caught up in the electric vehicle excitement that surrounded LME Week, albeit maybe too soon, and rallied almost 9% in one day. The metal hit a year high of $13,030 per tonne on November 1.

It closed the year up 26.07% but also traded as low as $8,680 per tonne in the summer showing the metal’s extreme volatility.

The three-month zinc price also had a strong year, soaring to above $3,000 per tonne for the first time since 2007 while the LME’s cash to three-month spread also hiked to its highest backwardation in ten years.

Since then zinc has continued to climb, reaching a yearly high of $3,326 per tonne during LME Week and closing the year 29% higher. Lead was not far behind its sister metal closing the year 24.2% higher.

While tin was the only base metal to record a negative through 2017, it started the year strong, above $21,100 per tonne, but could never climb back to this level. Closing the year below $20,000 per tonne and down 5.2% overall.



START OF 2017 ($/t) END OF 2017 ($/t) CHANGE YEAR HIGH ($/t) YEAR LOW ($/t)
COPPER $5,541 $7,251.50 +30.8% $7,312.50 –
Dec 28

$5,450.50 –
Jan 4


$1,692.50 $2,280 +34.7% $2,290 –
Dec 29
$1,676.50 –
Jan 3


$10,030 $12,645 +26.07% $13,030 –
Nov 1
$8,680 –
June 13
ZINC $2,567.50 $3,316 +29.1% $3,326 –
Nov 1

$2,427.50 – June 7


$2,018 $2,498 +24.2% $2,620.50 –
Oct 4

$1,986 –
Jan 3

TIN $21,100 $19,995 -5.2% $21,200 –
Jan 10

$18,630 –
Feb 7