Zinc at 14-year high after output cuts driven by power crunch


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LONDON — Prices of zinc jumped to a 14-year high on Thursday after soaring power prices triggered production cuts at major zinc producer Nyrstar.

Electricity prices have reached record highs in recent weeks, driven by power shortages in Asia and Europe, leading to a curtailment in production of some metals and threatening a global economic recovery.

Belgium-based Nyrstar said it would cut production by up to 50% at its three European zinc smelters from Wednesday. The three smelters have combined annul capacity of about 700,000 tonnes, according to Commerzbank.

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The cuts come at a time when inventories are low on the LME system. Total stocks of zinc in warehouses registered with the London Metal Exchange (LME) fell by 1,475 tonnes to 189,600 tonnes, the lowest level since January.

“The energy crisis set the fire for the rally across the board, and low inventories of some metals such as copper and zinc also support the parabolic run,” said ING analyst Wenyu Yao.

“(Zinc) prices could stay elevated at least before the current power crisis dissipates.”

Benchmark zinc on the LME was up 3.7% at $3,526 a tonne by 1640 GMT, its highest since July 2007. The metal used to galvanize steel was in its sixth straight session of gains.

The premium of LME cash zinc over the three-month contract jumped to $42 a tonne, its highest since November 2019, on concerns over immediately available supply.

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MARKET BALANCE: The global zinc market will have a surplus of 217,000 tonnes in 2021 and 44,000 tonnes next year, according to the International Lead and Zinc Study Group (ILZSG).

PRODUCER PRICES: China’s annual factory gate prices rose more quickly than expected in September, driven by soaring raw material prices, piling pressure on businesses already grappling with energy curbs and supply bottlenecks.

OTHER PRICES: Copper rose 2% to $9,835 a tonne, aluminum jumped 3.4% to $3,171, lead was up 1.5% at $2,281, tin hit a record high $37,130 a tonne, later moderating to be up 2% at $37,100.

Nickel increased 2.3% to $19,360. (Reporting by Zandi Shabalala Additional reporting by Mai Nguyen in Hanoi Editing by Jan Harvey, David Goodman and Susan Fenton)