Stocks of Australian mining giants climbed Thursday as an extended rally in raw material prices helped put the brakes on an ongoing commodity rout. An increase in U.S. consumer spending and signs of a revival in the Chinese economy in November have raised investors’ hopes of a better economic outlook in 2016.
Shares in the Rio Tinto Group -- a British-Australian mining conglomerate -- rose 4.4 percent Thursday to post its biggest two-day advance in more than three years, as aluminum prices hit a three-month high. The company's stock has gained 8.8 percent since Wednesday. BHP Billiton, the world’s largest miner, rose 5.3 percent during morning trade in Sydney.
“Mining and metals shares advanced with some expectations of rising investment in underweight commodities stocks in early 2016,” Helen Lau, analyst at Argonaut Securities (Asia) Ltd. in Hong Kong, told Bloomberg. “Signs of improving fundamentals have boosted the market recently.”
Benchmark aluminum prices have tumbled to a six-year low, losing nearly 30 percent of their value so far this year. And, with aluminum prices hovering at record lows, China -- the world’s largest producer and consumer of the metal -- is mulling production cuts at its highly subsidized smelters.
In November, a Chinese industry trade body called upon the government to buy off the excess supply of aluminum, nickel and other minor metals to stabilize prices. According to local media reports, it is not yet clear if authorities have agreed to the proposal.
Meanwhile, ING commodities analyst Hamza Khan reportedly projected aluminum prices on the London Metal Exchange to return to $1,700-1,850 per ton next year, the Metal Bulletin reported. Aluminum is currently trading at $1538.50 per ton on the exchange.
On the other hand, Norway-based Norsk Hydro, one of the world's largest aluminum producers, launched a new round of cost cuts in December, citing the current situation of oversupply on China. “China's production of aluminum is expected to be 2-2.5 million tonnes higher than the country's consumption in 2016, resulting in a global oversupply of up to 1 million tonnes,” Norsk Hydro said.
The company added that the outlook would only improve in 2017 as the gap between demand for and supply of the metal narrows, pushing prices up.