Mark Latham Commodity Equity Intelligence Service

Tuesday 28th April 2015
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LME moves to cut warehouse queues faster

LME moves to cut warehouse queues faster

New measures to increase the amount of metal withdrawn from warehouses, relative to material brought in, will help to reduce queues faster at London Metal Exchange (LME) registered warehouses, the exchange said on Monday.

The LME, the world's oldest and biggest market for industrial metals which is now owned by Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd, oversees warehouses where companiesthat buy metals on its futures market can take delivery of quality-assured supplies if needed.

Big banks and traders that own or owned warehouses and charge rent have profited from letting long queues build up. Some also keep huge stocks of aluminium tied up, unavailable to manufacturers, in long-term financing deals.

Effective Aug. 1, the so-called decay factor under the Linked Load-In/Load-Out Rule (LILO) will rise to 1.0 from 0.5 previously. That means companies will now have to withdraw as much metal as they bring in to a warehouse, compared with the previous requirement to take out half of what was deposited.

The LME's LILO rule is aimed at tackling what the exchange has called embedded queues at locations such as Detroit and Vlissingen and places on warehouse operators additional load-out obligations over and above minimum stipulated requirements.

"This adjustment in the decay factor will, broadly, increase the rate at which queues will fall at affected warehouses, provided such warehouses continue to load in metal," the LME said.

The LME's March report shows queues to load out primary aluminium at Vlissingen at 510 calendar days and at Detroit the queues were 436 days compared with the 50 day delay deemed to be acceptable.

The changes come after a consultation with LME-listed warehouses and other interested parties.

Those in favour said the changes were necessary to cut current queues and to create a disincentive to accumulation of future queues.

"One respondent proposed increasing the decay factor to 1.25x for aluminium for the next two years," the LME said.

"Certain respondents argued that LILO as amended, by itself, would be insufficient to reduce queues in a timely manner, given increases in capacity at certain DP Warehouses and the delays in implementation to LILO."

Affected DP warehouses are those with queues longer than 50 days.
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Life coming back to the global mining exploration sector

After five consecutive months of decline, global mining exploration began showing signs of life last month, with SNL Metals & Mining’s Pipeline Activity Index (PAI), which monitors the health of the sector, gaining 9.4 points.

There were six positive project milestones last month, compared to only one such announcement in February.

SNL's PAI rose to 58.4 in March from 49 in February. But don’t fool yourself. The figure is not that great, as it only means there were six positive project milestones last month, compared to only one such announcement in February.

The index, which hit an all-time low of 40.2 in April 2014, measures activity in the metals supply pipeline, incorporating four stages into a single comparable index: significant drill results, initial resource announcements, major financings and project development milestones.
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Oil and Gas

Crude traders increase bull trades as Saudi orders more tankers.

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Board members of Saudi Aramco visited the headquarters of South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries Co Ltd on Tuesday, as the shipping arm of Saudi Arabia’s state oil firm looks to buy up to 10 tankers, four industry sources said.

Saudi Arabia has been supplying more crude to Asian markets and Saudi Aramco’s shipping arm has tendered to build 5 very large crude carriers (VLCCs) plus up to 5 optional vessels for 2017 delivery, said one of the sources.

All of the vessels the National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia (Bahri) is seeking are 320,000 deadweight tonnes.

The deal could be worth about $1 billion, based on data from Clarkson, the British shipbroking house, which puts the price of the tankers of this size at $96.5 million.

Saudi Aramco seizes more control over oil supplies flowing from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2014

SAUDI Aramco’s Khalid Al-Falih retains a high position in shipping’s power elite, due to the progress the company has been making this year to take as much control as possible over the crude oil supply coming out of Saudi Arabia.

His company’s shipping arm, Vela International Marine, received shareholder approval to merge its fleet with that of National Shipping Co of Saudi Arabia, also known as Bahri, in what is the largest merger in Saudi Arabia.

The merger puts the larger entity among the very top of the biggest very large crude carrier fleets in the world, with more than 30 vessels.

The larger fleet allows Mr Al-Falih’s company to retain more control over the oil supply chain from the Kingdom, producing the crude and transporting it to customers.

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Saudi prince sees ‘excellent’ oil market as kingdom meets demand

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, will meet any demand for its crude as the kingdom seeks to keep customers happy and maintain a balanced market, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the deputy oil minister, said.

The oil market is in “excellent” condition, he told reporters Monday in the eastern city of Khobar, without elaborating. Benchmark Brent crude has gained 13% this year and was trading 46 cents lower at $64.82/bbl at 10:56 a.m. in London.

“We will supply any demand for Saudi oil, as we are interested in the stability of the market,” Prince Abdulaziz said. “Stability includes price, supply, and demand stability.”

“Saudi Arabia responds to demand in the market,” the prince said. “We will provide oil to whoever asks for it.”

The shutdown of the Khafji offshore oil fields, which Saudi Arabia has developed jointly with Kuwait, removed 300,000 bpd from global supply, Prince Abdulaziz said earlier Monday at a conference in Khobar. The Saudis halted operations at Khafji on Oct. 16, citing unspecified environmental concerns. The halt has reduced Saudi emissions of methane gas, he said.

Saudi Arabia seeks to cut its crude consumption by 1.5 MMboed by 2030, the prince said. The nation plans to begin producing shale gas in 2016 at an initial output of 20 million to 50 million cubic feet per day, before raising it to 500 million in 2018 and 4 billion in 2025, Prince Abdulaziz said.
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India asks Qatar to cut LNG price by 60%

India has asked its largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) supplier Qatar to cut gas prices to match the 60% slump in global rates in last one year.

India buys 7.5 million tonnes a year of LNG on a long-term 25 year contract, indexed to a moving average of crude oil price.

The price of LNG from Qatar comes close to $13 per million British thermal unit as compared to the $6-7 rate at which it is available in the spot or current market.

The high price of LNG under the long-term contract has led to users in fertiliser and power industry finding it cheaper to use alternate fuels like naphtha and fuel oil, a top source said.

Petronet LNG Ltd, which has been buying LNG from Qatar on a long-term contract since 2004, has asked for a 10 per cent cut in import volumes this year, they said.

"The contract is a take or pay wherein the buyer has to take the contracted volume every calendar year or pay for it. But the contract also provides for a flexibility that gives the buyer (the option) to defer taking 10% less of yearly supplies. These volumes can be taken at anytime during the duration of the contract," the source said.

Similarly, the contract also provides for the buyer to seek 10% more quantity over the contracted volume in any year, with the excess volume being adjusted during the remaining duration of the contract.

The source said Petronet has already exercised the 10% option and is in negotiations to raise this volume to 25%.
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BP sees profit fall sharply to $2.1bn

Oil giant BP has reported a sharp fall in profit to $2.13bn (£1.39bn) for the three months to the end of March as the dramatic fall in oil prices takes its toll. That compares with $3.5bn for the same period a year earlier.

A big rise in revenue from BP's oil refinery unit made up the bulk of its profits

BP is the first of the major oil firms to report first quarter earrings.

BP chief executive Bob Dudley said the oil company's results reflected the "weaker environment and the actions we are taking in response".

The results were, however, better than expected. Most analysts had forecast the oil company to report replacement cost profit (RCP) of around $1.3bn.

RCP is the method by which oil companies report profitability based on how much it would cost them to "replace" the reserves they sell.

Oil companies' business is largely made up of "upstream" activities - getting oil out of the ground - and "downstream" - refining it into useable products.

BP's downstream business gave BP $2bn in RCP in the first quarter this time, compared with $794m for the same period a year earlier.

That helped offset a big slump in earnings from BP's oil exploration operations which reported RCP of $372m compared with $4.7bn a year earlier.
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PetroChina first-quarter profit dives 82 percent

PetroChina, China's biggest oil and gas producer, reported a sharper-than-expected 82 percent fall in first-quarter profit, due to lower international crude prices and inventory writedowns at its refining division.

Net profit declined to 6.15 billion yuan ($989 million) in the first three months from 34.2 billion a year ago, the state-run company said on Monday. The figures were calculated using international accounting standards.

The unaudited earnings compared with an average forecast of 8.01 billion yuan by four analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters.

Last month, PetroChina reported a 67 percent slump in net profit for the fourth quarter, lagging forecasts. The company has said it will cut spending and divest more assets this year.

For the first quarter, PetroChina reported a 67 drop in its operating profits to 17.3 billion yuan as its realised crude prices declined 51.2 percent to $48.87 per barrel.

Its refining and chemical segment widened losses to 5.1 billion yuan from 2.2 billion yuan a year earlier, PetroChina said. Its retail and distribution division moved into the red, generating an operating loss of 2.6 billion yuan versus a profit of 3.3 billion yuan a year ago.

Its natural gas import business saw an improvement, with losses shrinking by nearly 5 billion yuan to 7.2 billion yuan in the first three months.

PetroChina and major domestic rival Sinopec Corp on Monday dismissed media reports their parents would merge to create a state-owned group, saying they had never received any official information about such a restructuring.

Shares in Sinopec and PetroChina surged in Shanghai and Hong Kong on Monday after state media reported that China would likely cut the number of central government-owned conglomerates to 40 through a series of mergers as Beijing pushes to overhaul the underperforming state sector.
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Total’s Profit Beats Estimates on Refining Gains, Output Growth

Total SA’s first-quarter profit exceeded analysts’ estimates as refining gains and the fastest rate of production growth in more than a decade helped soften the blow of a 50 percent drop in oil prices.

Net income excluding changes in inventories was $2.6 billion, beating the $2.17 billion average of nine estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Adjusted net operating income from its refining and chemicals unit, which benefits from lower oil prices, more than tripled to $1.1 billion, the Courbevoie, France-based company said in a statement on Tuesday.

Europe’s third-biggest oil company is “demonstrating its resilience and profiting from its integrated model,” Chief Executive Officer Patrick Pouyanne said in the statement.

Total plans to reduce spending, cut jobs and curtail exploration this year after the price of Brent crude, the benchmark for more than half the world’s oil, dropped amid a global supply glut. The average price Total sold its oil for during the first quarter fell 50 percent to $53.90 a barrel from $108.20 a year earlier.

The cost-saving program includes a hiring freeze, cutting 2,000 jobs in marketing and services and a 15 percent reduction in corporate staff through 2017. The company also plans $10 billion of asset sales in the period, including $5 billion this year.

Net income fell 20 percent to $2.66 billion, or $1.13 a share, from $3.34 billion, or $1.46, a year earlier, the company said. Sales dropped 30 percent to $42.3 billion. Total is maintaining its dividend at 61 euro cents (66 U.S. cents) a share, according to the statement.

European refining margins rose to $47.10 a ton in the first quarter from $6.60 a year earlier, driven by strong demand particularly for gasoline. That’s the highest level since the third quarter of 2012.

“Since the beginning of the second quarter refining and petrochemicals margins have remained strong, despite the structural overcapacity in Europe, which will weigh on margins in the medium term,” Total said.

First-quarter production rose 10 percent to the equivalent of 2.395 million barrels of oil a day, in part due to a new concession in the United Arab Emirates. Total warned second-quarter production will be affected by maintenance work in Nigeria, the U.K. and Norway.

Total expects to raise output this year by 8 percent to 2.32 million barrels a day. The increase comes in part from the start up of five more projects including Siberian gas venture Termokarstovoye in the second quarter. Before year-end, Total will commence operations at the Gladstone liquefied natural gas project in Australia, the Laggan-Tormore fields off the Shetland Islands, the Surmont 2 oil-sands development in Canada and Vega Pleyade field offshore Argentina.

The company wrote down the value of assets in Libya and Yemen due to “deteriorating security conditions.”
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Gazprom Neft says no plans to ask for aid from rainy-day state fund

Gazprom Neft, the oil arm of Russia's top natural gas producer Gazprom, has no plans to ask for money from the National Wealth Fund, the company's head said on Monday.

Alexander Dyukov told reporters in Russia's second city of St. Petersburg that Gazprom Neft had not and did not plan to ask for support from the National Wealth Fund.

Last month, Dyukov said the company may apply to receive money to develop some upstream projects.
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Beach Energy revenue slumps as oil falls

Oil and gas explorer Beach Energy’s quarterly revenue tumbled amid a slump in global oil prices, while the company also said it planned a “major reduction” in capital spending next financial year.

Total revenue for the three months to March 31 plunged to $131 million, a 33 per cent decline on the December quarter, and 43.5 per cent lower than the same period last year, as sales volumes and oil prices declined, the company (BPT) said today.

Sales volumes fell 5 per cent during the March quarter to 2.2 million barrels of oil equivalent (mmboe) compared to the corresponding period a year earlier, while volumes fell 23 per cent on the December quarter. Year to date sales were in line with the previous year.

Quarterly production was 11 per cent lower than the December quarter, with output reaching 2.1 mmboe.

Beach saw an average oil price during the quarter of $71 per barrel, down 18 per cent from the December quarter, and a 43 per cent plunge from a year ago.

Global oil prices have recently fallen to six-year lows, as the world’s largest oil producers maintain high output amid new sources of supply.

Beach Energy’s capital spend slipped 47 per cent during the quarter to $79m, which was consistent with the company’s revised 2015 plan.

The company also said it planned a “major reduction” in capital expenditure for the 2016 financial year, with its cash reserves and cash flows expected to fully fund the reduced program.
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Sembcorp Marine posts Q1 profit drop, sees challenging year ahead

Singapore-based rig builder Sembcorp Marine posted its lowest quarterly net profit in at least five years and forecast a challenging year ahead, as new rig orders dry up on weak oil prices and as a corruption scandal in Brazil brings uncertainty.

Sembcorp Marine said on Monday its first-quarter net profit dropped 13.6 percent on the year to S$105.9 million ($79.5 million), hit by lower contribution from rig building and repair work.

Sembcorp Marine, one of the world's top two offshore jackup rig builders alongside cross-town rival Keppel Corporation Ltd , said cuts in exploration and production expenses have resulted in few new orders for rig builders, as crude oil has fallen more than 40 percent since mid-2014.

Its net order book stands at S$10.6 billion, down from S$11.4 billion at the end of February.

Orders for drillships from Sete Brasil, a company set up by Brazil's national oil company Petrobras, along with a group of banks and funds, accounted for about half of the order book as of end-February.

There is uncertainty about these orders. Petrobras reported its overdue 2014 results last week, which showed its biggest-ever loss, the result of a $17 billion write-down in the wake of a massive corruption scandal.
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Saipem beats forecast in Q1 as contract margins pick up

Italian oil services group Saipem confirmed guidance for the year after its first-quarter operating profit beat forecasts on healthier profit margins from new orders.

Saipem, 43 percent owned by oil major Eni, is trying to phase out so-called low-margin legacy contracts that were awarded before 2013 and that have weighed on profitability.

The company is looking to phase out most of these contracts by the end of this year.

In a statement on Monday, Saipem said its earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) came in at 159 million euros ($172 million) compared to a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S consensus of 85 million euros.

"A lot of people were expecting writedowns on legacy contracts and pending revenues and they didn't come. That's boosted the shares," said Andrea Scauri, energy analyst at Mediobanca Securities.

At 1216 GMT, Saipem shares were up 5.4 percent at 12.1 euros while the European oil and gas index was up 0.3 percent.

Saipem shares have fallen more than 60 percent in the past two years after two profit warnings, a corruption investigation in Algeria and bleak outlook.

State-controlled Eni is drafting in Stefano Cao as Saipem CEO at the end of this month to turn around the company where he used to work and prepare it for a sale.
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InterOil commences flow testing at the Elk-Antelope gas field,

The Antelope-5 flow rate is constrained by reservoir engineers to a maximum test rate of about 70 million standard cubic feet a day.

InterOil Corporation (NYSE: IOC; POMSoX: IOC) has begun flow testing at the Elk-Antelope gas field in Papua New Guinea as part of the field appraisal.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister the Honorable Peter O'Neill and the Minister for Department of Petroleum and Energy the Honorable Nixon Duban today visited the Antelope-5 well site in the Gulf Province to see the operation and to be briefed on the Elk-Antelope LNG Project, a joint venture of InterOil, Total of France, and Oil Search.

InterOil Chief Executive Dr Michael Hession, Total Managing Director in Papua New Guinea Philippe Blanchard, and Oil Search Managing Director Peter Botten accompanied Prime Minister O'Neill and Minister Duban.

The Antelope-5 flow rate is constrained by reservoir engineers to a maximum test rate of about 70 million standard cubic feet a day.

Dr Hession said pressure gauges are planned to be placed in the field to monitor the pressure response during an extended test of Antelope-5.

'Antelope-5 has the best reservoir thickness, quality and fracture density of all wells on the field, which signifies a world-class reservoir,' Dr Hession said.

'By flowing the well under different conditions, we will be able to calculate maximum potential flow rates and better understand reservoir size, productivity and connectivity.'

Dr Hession said data from the testing would help the joint venture to optimize design of the LNG plant and associated infrastructure.
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Canada's TORC Oil & Gas to buy Surge Energy assets for C$430 mln

Canada's TORC Oil & Gas to buy Surge Energy assets for C$430 mln

Canadian intermediate producer TORC Oil & Gas Ltd is buying light oil assets from Surge Energy Inc in the Canadian Bakken region of southeast Saskatchewan and Manitoba for C$430 million ($354 million), Surge said on Monday.

Calgary-based TORC said in a statement it would acquire the assets from an independent Canadian oil producer. Junior energy company Surge later confirmed it is the seller.

The assets have production capacity of 4,750 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd), of which 98 percent is light oil and the rest liquids.

TORC, which has a market value of C$1.21 billion, also raised its 2015 average production forecast to more than 15,400 boepd from 13,000 boepd.

Darrell Bishop, head of energy research at Haywood Securities, said he expected to see more deals in the Canadian energy sector as many companies struggle with oil prices that have slumped by nearly half since June last year.

"The premium go-to names within this space are utilizing their balance sheets and cost of capital to take advantage of asset deals that would probably not normally be available," Bishop said. "They are low decline, free-flowing top assets."

TORC said it had identified about 170 net high quality light-oil drilling locations on the acquired assets, which have total proved reserves of 12.5 million barrels of oil equivalent. The company's light oil and liquids concentration will rise to 89 percent from 86 percent as a result.

To fund the cash deal, the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board, already a TORC investor, will invest up to C$150 million through a private placement of subscription receipts, and TORC has also signed a deal to raise C$250.5 million through bought deal financing.
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Precision Drilling profit beats estimates as costs fall

Precision Drilling Corp reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit as job cuts and other cost-cutting measures helped Canada's largest drilling contractor maintain margins despite a steep decline in drilling activities.

Calgary-based Precision Drilling said it had 2,200 fewer employees on April 24 than it had at the end of 2014, when its workforce stood at 7,834.

The company said it also consolidated three operating facilities in North America.

Precision Drilling's contract drilling services operating expenses fell by 21 percent to C$251.2 million ($206.6 million) in the first quarter ended March 31, from a year earlier.

The fall in expenses helped the company mitigate the impact of a more than 50 percent drop in drilling activity in Canada and the United States due to a dramatic fall in global oil prices.

"During the first quarter, demand for North American land drilling services failed to meet even the most pessimistic forecasts as our customers continue to seek ways to reduce spending and budgets in this low commodity price environment," Chief Executive Kevin Neveu said in a statement on Monday.

Precision Drilling's rig count in the United States fell to 80 in the quarter from 94 a year earlier. Rig count in Canada fell to 69 from 127.

However, the company raised its capital spending forecast for the current year by 8.3 percent to C$506 million due to a stronger dollar.

Net earnings fell 76.3 percent to C$24 million, or 8 Canadian cents per share. Analysts on average had expected earnings of 5 Canadian cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue fell nearly 24 percent to C$512.1 million but came in above the Wall Street estimate of C$496.4 million.
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Precious Metals

Barrick to sell stake in Zaldivar copper mine

Barrick Gold Corp said on Monday it has started the process to sell a stake in its Zaldivar copper mine in Chile as the world's biggest gold miner works to meet an ambitious debt reduction target of $3 billion by year end.

Confirmation of the planned sale was contained in Barrick's quarterly results release, which showed the Toronto-based miner reporting first-quarter earnings below analysts' expectations.

Barrick did not say how much of Zaldivar it was planning to sell but said there has been "strong interest" in the asset.

Sources have said it could be of interest to other mining companies as well as private equity funds like the mining arm of Warburg Pincus and Mick Davis' X2, among others.

Numerous companies have also shown interest in the previously announced sales of its Cowal and Porgera mines, Barrick said.

Earlier Barrick said its net earnings fell to $57 million, or 5 cents a share, in the quarter to end-March from $88 million, or 8 cents a share, in the same period a year ago on the back of a weaker gold price and sales.

Adjusted net earnings were $62 million, or 5 cents a share, below the 10 cents a share that analysts on average were expecting, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The miner produced 1.39 million ounces of gold in the first quarter at an all-in sustaining cost of $927 an ounce. Copper production totaled 118 million pounds at cash costs of $1.84 per pound.

Although Barrick has no plans to expand its existing copper position, the company said it was keen to maximize the value of assets it already owns. To that end, it has formed a strategic partnership to explore for copper deposits in northern Chile.

Barrick also announced what it said was a "significant" new gold discovery, known as Alturas, in Chile.
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Base Metals

Copper price through 2020: Onwards and upwards

Sentiment on coal and iron ore markets are almost uniformly negative, recent rallies notwithstanding. At the same time everyone is singing the praises of zinc, nickel and even lowly lead.

As for bellwether copper. Well, it's somewhere down the middle. The copper price has recovered from five-and-half-year lows struck in January but at around the $2.70 a pound / $6,000 per tonne level is down double digits from this time last year.

Sentiment aside, the outlook for the price of the metal based on the fundamentals of the industry is uneven too.

Most analysts believe demand will moderate but continue to grow at a pace of around 3% – 4%, helped by still robust, albeit slowing, demand from China which consumes 45% of the world's copper. The majority of analysts expect copper to move into a surplus this year with as much as 400,000 excess tonnes on the market. Others, like Christine Meilton, principal consultant on copper supply at commodities researcher CRU Group, predict a tiny deficit this year, before a shift to more substantial surplus of 260,000 tonnes next year.

Typical disruptions associated with adverse weather, technical problems, power shortages or labour activity coupled with falling grades and dirty concentrates at old mines make forecasting a tough proposition.

Meilton says CRU allows for an annual disruption allowance at the beginning of the year of 6% – 7% which is then adjusted on a quarterly basis throughout the year. The consultancy also allows for a 3.5% swing in refined output. The long-term incentive price for new projects is now north of $3 a pound

However, Meilton doesn't think more frequent supply disruptions are necessarily a trend: "The Chile floods did not amount to a huge loss of copper – probably around the 50,000 tonnes mark. It had disrupted logistics so there may be delays getting it to market. Olympic Dam in terms of global output [of 20 million tonnes] will not have a dramatic impact on supply."

CRU expects to see the copper price continue to make modest gains over the remainder of the year as demand recovers from the seasonal first quarter low. "Q1's almost always bad, people always get gloomy but generally the price does come back. Today's price is at or near a bottom and new projects definitely need a price above $2.70," says Meilton.

"Our short term forecast is the price rising through the decade. Prices have typically been above the cost curve in the past although the price this year is biting into the cost curve," says Meilton

An emerging tightness in 2017, driven by deficits in the raw materials markets, will support a higher price in 2017. Thereafter the price will continue to improve due to the deficit market, moving above $8,000 a tonne ($3.60 a pound) in 2019 says Meilton.
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Shanghai copper rises most in a month as stockpiles tumble

The SHFE June futures, the most-active contact, rose as much as 1.7 percent Monday, the biggest intraday gain since March 24. Inventories monitored by the exchange dropped 22,550 metric tons last week, the most by volume since April 2014, bourse data showed Friday. Stockpiles, at the lowest since February, fell a third week since reaching a two-year high.

Benchmark prices in London are headed for a third monthly gain after dropping in January by the most since 2011 on concern China’s demand is stalling as its housing market cools and economy slows. Consumption of the metal typically rises in the second quarter as seasonal construction and manufacturing activity increases, said Chunlan Li, a Beijing-based analyst at CRU Group, a research company.

“Demand is definitely picking up for copper,” Li said. “It’s normal that during the second quarter activity goes up everywhere.”

Shares of Jiangxi copper, the biggest smelter in China and fifth largest globally, rose as much as 2.3 percent in Hong Kong on Monday. Yunnan Copper Co., China’s third-largest publicly traded producer, gained as much as 3.2 percent in Shenzhen.

Inbound shipments of refined copper may rise as it is now more profitable for China-based traders to buy at LME prices and sell domestically at SHFE rates, Barclays Plc analysts Suki Cooper and Dane Davis said in a report Monday. Imports will also gain if domestic scrap market remains tight, they wrote.

“SHFE copper inventories fell as traders moved the metals to the improving physical market,” said Lian Zheng, analyst at Xinhu Futures Co. “We shall wait for a sustainable outflow of the metals before making a conclusion that demand is back on track.”
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Rusal to start aluminium output at Russian project by June – CEO

Top aluminium producer United Company Rusal will start producing metal at its Boguchansk project, in Russia, by June and will ramp up output over the following year depending on demand, the company's chief executive said on Monday.

Weak aluminium prices are forcing many producers to curtail output of the metal. Following a similar announcement by rival Alcoa, the Russian aluminium group said last week it may idle some 200 000 t of loss-making capacity this year due to weak prices and a desire to shift production to cleaner energy sources. 

However, CEO Vladimir Soloviev said in a meeting with reporters that the Boguchansk project would start producing by June and could achieve an annualised rate of 150 000 t by mid-2016, subject to demand. "The important thing is that metal from Boguchansk will be produced in line with Russian consumption. If demand grows we will correct the speed of the ramp-up," he said. 

Soloviev said he expected Russian domestic consumption to fall by about 5% this year due mainly to higher interest rates in Russia, which have hurt the ability of final users of aluminium to get funding and working capital. Concerns about oversupply in the aluminium market have put pressure on prices of the metal use in packaging and vehicles. 

Rusal's director for sales and marketing, Steve Hodgson, estimated that global off-warrant aluminium stocks, excluding China, stand at around 3.3-million tonnes, down about 500 000 t from last year.
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Steel, Iron Ore and Coal

Iron ore recovery gives miners breathing space

The spot price of iron ore extended its recent gains on Monday, sitting at a seven-week high and providing this way some breathing space to miners, particularly mid-tier producers.

Prices for the steel-making material added Monday US$1.28 or 2.17% to US$59.09 a tonne, taking its gain since bottoming at $47.08 on April 2 to 25%, according to data provided by the Metal Bulletin's benchmark.

The revival means that at least three Australian miners, previously in the red or dangerously close to it, have resumed making money.

Those companies, Fortescue Metals Group , BC Iron , Mount Gibson Iron and US miner Cliffs Natural Resources , are now believed to be above their "break-even" price, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Fortescue, the world's fourth biggest producer, needs iron ore prices to be about $50 per tonne to cover its cost of production, royalties, maintenance spending and its debt obligations.
BC Iron can generate cash as long as the benchmark iron ore price is $55 per tonne or higher.
Mt Gibson Iron should also be breathing better, as it estimated "break-even" price is $53.
And Cliffs Natural Resources, set to update investors on Wednesday, has said its cash costs of producing iron ore are around $39 per tonne.

In contrast, mid-tier producer Atlas Iron  —which needed an in ore price of $60/t to keep its head above water— is mothballing its WA mines under a staggered plan announced earlier this month.
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