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China braces for aluminum import wave as coronavirus recovery upends trade

NationalPost - China’s imports of aluminum are about to hit their highest levels in a decade, traders and analysts said, as an arbitrage opportunity created by demand recovery after its coronavirus outbreak makes it cheaper to buy metal from outside the country.

China, the world’s top producer of the metal used in everything from cars to cans, normally has little need to import primary aluminum, made from alumina rather than scrap. Imports for all of 2019 totalled just over 75,000 tonnes versus output of 35 million tonnes.

This year, though, as demand in the rest of the world collapses and metals consumption in China recovers from coronavirus-induced shock, its aluminum imports are set to top 100,000 tonnes in May alone.

The draw is that Shanghai aluminum prices above 13,000 yuan ($1,800) a tonne far exceed London Metal Exchange prices of $1,500, opening an arbitrage that has Chinese buyers looking overseas for bargains.

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