Aluminium wire prices in the United States were mixed in the fourth quarter of 2022 owing to transportation bottlenecks caused by a lack of containers, shippers, and truck drivers, as well as long lead times at ports and other transportation hubs. Participants in the US market were concerned that additional European production cuts had caused the material to become extremely tight in October, causing psychological consequences in the US and raising premiums. Due to the bleak outlook for downstream demand in November and December, suppliers of aluminium wires were hesitant to sell inventories at lower prices. The ongoing decline in downstream demand, combined with the low-carbon differential, puts downward pressure on the aluminium market. Manufacturers report that some restocking of aluminium wire occurred in the fourth quarter due to low end-user inventory levels and bearish sentiment. The end-of-year restocking drive was unlikely to happen this year. Instead, due to a drop in demand for aluminium wire, many end users started their new year's vacation earlier than usual.
Aluminium wire prices rose in the Chinese market in the fourth quarter of 2022 as pandemic control and prevention measures were eased. In October, the market was under supply-side pressure. According to market participants, the production reduction had raised aluminium wire prices to some extent. However, market players paid attention to the demand-side situation and waited for the operating rates of top-tier aluminium fabricators. In November, aluminium wire prices surged amidst the continuation of zero-COVID control and prevention measures. However, demand for downstream goods was low during the traditional off-season. Some aluminium processing plants closed early to celebrate the Chinese New Year. As a result, the inventory of aluminium wire remained low in December. Aluminium Sheet prices conversion margins had fallen to discounts, while spot premiums on aluminium ingots had also fallen and diverged across regions. Premiums in Gongyi fell due to a drop in terminal demand and orders. As a ripple effect, the Aluminium Sheet (3004-1 mm) prices for ex-Shanghai and FOB Tianjin settled at USD 2747/MT and USD 2799/MT.
Aluminium wire prices in the European market showed a mixed trend in the fourth quarter of 2022 due to production curtailment and a fluctuating demand outlook. Market participants were concerned about supply disruptions in October, particularly in light of the recent Nord Stream pipeline explosions. As the most energy-intensive base metal to produce, aluminium is particularly vulnerable to Europe's energy situation, with significant production cuts and weakening demand. Aluminium producers claimed that the situation was dire, with production reduced by nearly 50%. Due to rising energy costs, production cuts in European alumina refineries and aluminium smelters in November heightened market concern. Furthermore, suppliers claimed that alumina prices in Australia were extremely volatile in September, with shipments out of Western Australia being delayed due to heavy rain. Europe's refinery and smelter maintenance plans had not returned to normal since the pandemic began until December. Suppliers of aluminium wire were hesitant to sell inventories at lower prices because the outlook for downstream demand had been bleak. Thus, market players opted for a wait-and-watch outlook during the end of the final quarter of 2022.
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