Tin rose to a record in London as declining stockpiles and mining disruptions heightened speculation that supplies won’t be adequate for demand.
Stockpiles tracked by the London Metal Exchange have dropped 53 percent this year, according to LME data. Tin exports from Indonesia, the biggest exporter, for the first eight months this year fell to 60,107 metric tons from 67,797.54 tons a year earlier, the Ministry of Trade in Jakarta said on Sept. 22.
“The tin market is currently characterized by quite dramatic supply problems, especially in Indonesia,” Daniel Briesemann, an analyst at Commerzbank AG in Frankfurt, said.
Tin for three-month delivery on the LME gained as much as $600, or 2.4 percent, to $25,800 a ton. The metal was up 1.8 percent at $25,650 by 11:32 a.m. local time. The previous record was $25,500 a ton in May 2008.
Tin has climbed 51 percent this year, the most of the main six metals on the LME and the first to advance to a record since the global recession. It’s mainly used to solder other metals together. Demand outpaced supply by 9,900 tons for the first seven months this year, according to the World Bureau of Metal Statistics.
Production in China, the world’s largest producer, may be restricted through the end of the year because of limitations on power, tin industry group ITRI Ltd. said on Sept. 29.
Bookings to remove metal, or canceled warrants, at LME warehouses have more than doubled this year, meaning inventories may further decline.
Prices have been bolstered by disruptions to production in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia.
“This year’s surprise came about when it became apparent that Indonesian production was badly lagging last year’s levels because of heavy rains,” Edward Meir, an analyst at MF Global Ltd. in Darien, Connecticut, said on Sept. 23. Exports may drop 19 percent to about 80,000 tons this year, Alberth Tubogu, export director for mining and industry products at Indonesia’s trade ministry, said on Sept. 20.
In August, shipments from Indonesia dropped to 7,974 tons from 8,870 tons in July, the ministry said. Indonesia is the world’s second largest producer of tin, a metal mainly used in electrical soldering.
Local inventories in Indonesia have “largely been depleted, especially among smaller producers, so that only a small portion of the production shortfall can be buffered by local inventories,” said Briesemann.
“In other countries, too, tin production is not moving ahead,” Briesemann said. “In Congo, the largest African tin producer, even a general ban on mining was imposed in the country’s tin-rich eastern provinces,” he said. The Democratic Republic of Congo’s Mines Minister Martin Kabwelulu said on Sept. 21 a mining suspension in three eastern provinces will be upheld “until further notice.” President Joseph Kabila suspended all mining operations in three eastern provinces, the mines ministry said on Sept. 11.
Demand for tin is expected to increase 13 percent this year, MF Global’s Meir said, citing figures from ITRI. “Because demand remains strong we are seeing a noticeable decline in tin inventories,” he said.
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