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FT noted this weekend that “one counter-intuitive pick” among commodities [for investors looking for portfolio protection against an oil supply crisis] may be aluminum,” production of which is “notoriously energy-intensive (roughly 15.7 Kwh of power is required to make a kg of aluminum from alumina (derived from bauxite), which translates into 40 percent of the cost).”  At the same time, the Middle East accounts for 9 percent of global aluminum production, “so any further unrest could lead to disruptions to supplies.”  Moreover, analysts note that as base metals from tin (+~91%), nickel (44%) and copper (36%) have surged YoY, aluminum (22%) has lagged.  As it is global demand growth is robust enough (+17% annually in 2010 and expected to see 7-8% growth this year per Russia’s RUSAL, the world’s largest producer) to counteract impending production restarts: Barclays, for instance, expects “Chinese output to rise to record levels by Q311 as current price levels drive restarts and new capacity.”  Nevertheless it projects the overall stock-to-consumption ratio (7.4 wks 2011F) to remain fairly sticky given demand pressures and the aforementioned energy cost headwind.  Finally, some opine that as larger investors and even proposed-ETFs increasingly enter the market, further supply disruptions could ensue as the physical material is stored away in warehouses or as inventory.

JGW

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