Sanctions Fallout Upends Metals as Aluminum, Nickel Burst Higher

  • Bloomberg
  • Commodities News
Sanctions Fallout Upends Metals as Aluminum, Nickel Burst Higher
Credit: © Reuters.

(Bloomberg) -- Aluminum and nickel were driven to multiyear highs as the turmoil unleashed by U.S. sanctions against United Co. Rusal (MCX: RUAL ) reverberated, with industry leader Alcoa (NYSE: AA ) Corp. forecasting a deficit of the lightweight metal and warning it’s still assessing what the curbs will mean.

Aluminum rallied as much as 5 percent to $2,664.50 a metric ton on the London Metal Exchange, the highest since 2011, and traded at $2,612 at 7:38 a.m. in London. That’s more than 30 percent above the April 5 close, the day before sanctions were announced. After getting caught up in the chaos on Wednesday, nickel soared again, jumping 9.3 percent to $16,690, the highest since 2014.

“I think the Rusal story still has more to play out,” Alcoa Chief Executive Officer Roy Harvey said in an interview, adding he still hasn’t gauged the effects of how the sanctions will affect the market. As the company reported earnings, it forecast deficits of both aluminum and key ingredient alumina.

Global metals markets have been rocked for the past two weeks by the U.S. clampdown against Russia’s Rusal, which set off a scramble for alternative supplies and stirred concern further U.S. action may embroil other raw materials such as nickel. Rusal officials met Chinese companies and traders this week to discuss the possibility of selling output in the Asian country, while buying alumina, according to people with knowledge of the talks.

“The response to aluminum has been logical as the market slowly understands the extent to which Rusal penetrates into the aluminum industry,” Mark Keenan, head of Asia commodities research at Societe Generale, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. “Perhaps these gains are justified as people are calling for prices above $2,500.”

Shares Jump

On Thursday, shares in Australia’s Alumina Ltd (AX: AWC ) -- which partners with Alcoa -- surged as much as 10.5 percent, while nickel producers Western Areas Ltd (AX: WSA ) and Independence Group NL (AX: IGO ) both advanced more than 10 percent. In Japan, Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. (T: 5713 ) added as much as 9 percent.

The curbs against Rusal seek to cut off its access to Western financial markets, strangling its ability to conduct business with customers, suppliers and shippers. The company accounts for about 17 percent of production outside China. While its shares have been battered, they surged in Hong Kong on Thursday after its officials were said to meet Chinese companies and traders.

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