WEEK IN BRIEF: China export taxes; aluminium premiums plunge; Grasberg cargoes held

Metal Bulletin deputy editor Fleur Ritzema takes a look back at some of the key news and price moves from the past week.

Metal Bulletin deputy editor Fleur Ritzema takes a look back at some of the key news and price moves from the past week.

In a move that could have far-reaching consequences for many markets, China has cancelled export taxes on tungsten, molybdenum, vanadium pentoxide, rare earths, aluminium bar and rod, some cobalt chemicals, germanium oxide and some indium products from May.

More details here.

And here we take an in-depth look at how the news could affect the markets: aluminium bar and rod; noble alloys; minor metals.

In other news, aluminium premiums continued to tumble this week. Duty-unpaid premiums in Europe took another major hit on Tuesday and continued to fall as the week went on. Find out why here.

And premiums paid to import aluminium ingot into Brazil have also been sliding, pressured both by the global downward trend and by sluggish domestic demand and credit constraints. Danielle Assalve had the story.

Lawrence Capital Management Inc principal Timothy Hayes, meanwhile, told delegates at the Aluminum Association’s spring meeting that US Midwest premiums for P1020 aluminium could continue to drop through the rest of 2015 and into 2016.

Elsewhere, UC Rusal said it may idle 200,000 tonnes of capacity. The Russian producer saw aluminium output rise 2% to 900,000 tonnes in the March quarter.
On the London Metal Exchange, base metals were showing some strength towards the end of the week. Tin and nickel were the standout performers. Check our Friday’s rolling LME report, updated by Claire Hack, here.

And back on the physical markets, discounts for copper scrap supply in Europe increased. Find out more here.

In company news, Freeport-McMoRan was paying demurrage on two cargoes of copper concentrates from the Grasberg mine in Indonesia as it negotiated with the government over new export payment rules. Shivani Singh and Mark Burton had the story.

Andrea Hotter, meanwhile, wrote that the decision by Freeport to diversify back into the oil and gas business a couple of years ago was not a popular one.

And it is likely to prove even less popular among shareholders now, after the company reported a massive $2.5 billion first-quarter loss, mostly due to charges associated with its energy unit.

It’s now considering the sale of a minority stake in its oil and gas subsidiary.

BHP Billiton, meanwhile, lowered its copper output outlook for 2015 to 1.7 million tonnes. The miner produced 460,000 tonnes in the March quarter, up 11% year-on-year.

And it saw aluminium output fall 14% year-on-year in the January-March 2015 period. Nickel West is now expected to produce 90,000 tonnes in the 2015 financial year.

The miner also this week declared force majeure on at least some of its ferro-nickel shipments from Cerro Matoso, as a result of a worker strike, according to market sources.

Another major miner, Vale, posted record copper production in Q1.

But it also shut down its ferro-alloys plants in Brazil’s Minas Gerais State as high energy prices made it economically unviable to operate them.

In silico-manganese, prices edged higher this week, as suppliers reported tighter market availability, due to Brazil’s power-related production shutdowns and a lack of offers from India, where producers have also cut output.

Also in the alloy markets, Janie Davies took a look at the changing landscape among the world’s ferro-chrome producers.

Fleur Ritzema
Twitter: FleurRitzema_MB

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