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Alumina spot market frozen until Q2 on strong quarterly contract sales

Tuesday, Jan 29, 2013

Alumina traders are struggling to find any available cargoes in the first quarter of 2013, as many producers sold forward much of their first-quarter material and will not be responding to enquiries until late March, when they will have material available for the second quarter.

Metal Bulletin’s fob Australia alumina index price has stayed flat at $333.5 per tonne since January 11, with almost no business reported throughout the second half of January after several deals were transacted in the range of $330-336 per tonne in the early part of the month.

Traders looking for material said that there is now almost nothing available until the end of March.

“We’re enquiring for February but we can’t find anything – there’s a bit of a shortage,” a trader said. “Producers have contracted all their material for at least the first-quarter. We went to two or three and they told us to come back at the end of March.”

A producer confirmed that there would be no spot tonnages available until then.

“We won’t have any cargoes available until possibly March,” the producer said.

Adding to the malaise is a lack of spot demand from China.

“China is still very depressed,” a second trader said, adding that demand is not likely to pick up substantially in China until after the New Year holiday next month.

Market participants see higher prices once spot market activity picks up in late March, with bullish sentiment aided by the January 31 deadline Rio Tinto has imposed on its Gove alumina refinery in Australia’s Northern Territory, saying that the facility will be closed if it cannot be run on natural gas. The region’s government is still trying to secure gas supplies for the refinery, but no deal has yet been struck.

“Rio Tinto will announce its final decision on January 31 – if it closes Gove, that’s a big driver for the market,” said one market source.

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