BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s primary aluminium output fell 2 percent on a daily basis in the first two months of 2019 from December’s record rate, according to official data released on Thursday, as low prices prompted smelters to shut production.
The world’s top aluminium-producing country churned out 5.69 million tonnes of the metal in January and February, up 5 percent year-on-year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
The bureau typically does not provide individual output numbers for those two months due to distortion from the timing of Chinese New Year. Chinese aluminium smelters, however, keep running throughout the week-long holiday.
On a daily basis, output averaged around 96,440 tonnes in January-February, according to Reuters calculations, down from around 98,420 tonnes in December, when monthly production came it at a record high of more than 3 million tonnes.
The bureau’s latest production figure shows the impact on smelters of persistently low Chinese aluminium prices, which are still below the average break-even level of 14,000 yuan (£1,574.52) a tonne.
Zhang Rufeng, a manager at consultancy Baiinfo, estimated that 406,000 tonnes of annual aluminium production was closed in China in January and February.
However, China Hongqiao Group, the world’s biggest aluminium producer, shrugged off low prices to restart some of its pots at the beginning of February after some winter environmental restrictions expired.
The remainder of the winter curbs on industrial output in northern China are due to end on Friday.
Meanwhile, output of 10 nonferrous metals - including copper, aluminium, lead, zinc and nickel - came in at 9.03 million tonnes in January-February, up 6.2 percent year-on-year, the bureau said. Output had hit a monthly record of 5.08 million tonnes in December.
The other metals in the group are tin, antimony, mercury, magnesium and titanium.
Reporting by Tom Daly; editing by Richard Pullin