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London
[United Kingdom]
Posted on : Sep 21, 2006
LONDON - Delays in new mine capacity,
disruptions and rapidly falling London Metal Exchange stocks have pushed LME
laggard lead to a seven-month high this week that could extend to surpass
February's record high, analysts and traders said Friday.
LME lead has outperformed other base metals
since August to rise to a seven-month high of $1,390 a metric ton Friday, up
27.5% since the start of August.
By comparison, LME copper prices have been flat
over the same period.
"There is scope for new highs. The decline in
LME stocks justifies the price rise. Delays and disruptions at key projects such
as the Magellan mine, Cannington and Mount Isa meant that expected mine supply
growth has not materialized," said analyst Neil Hawkes at metals consultancy
CRU, referring to three Australian mines.
LME lead prices hit a record $1,435/ton in
February.
Taken together, mine disruptions and ramp-up
delays have cut this year's expected lead supply by around 100,000 tons, analyst
Huw Roberts from CHR Metals said, tipping the market from an expected surplus
into deficit.
Ivernia Inc. (IVW.T) downgraded its lead
production forecast to 60,000 tons from a previous 80,000 tons for 2006, while
BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP) temporarily shut part of its Cannington mine.

Strong lead exports from China during the first
half of the year have already slowed significantly but China's unexpected
decision to cancel lead's export rebates effective Sept. 15 will further reduce
exports, analysts said.
"China's decision to cut the
export rebate was a shock. We're unlikely to see a high level of exports over
the next months," Roberts said.
Record lead prices at the start
of the year had prompted Chinese producers to deliver metal to LME warehouses in
Asia, tripling stocks from around 40,000 tons at the start of the year, and
eventually weighed prices down, traders said.
To entice Chinese producers to
export again after the cancellation of the export rebate, prices would now need
to rise above $1,500/ton, one trader said.
The reduced availability of
lead has seen consumers turn to LME stockpiles, which have declined from more
than 120,000 tons in May to the current 65,975 tons.
"Anything below 50,000 tons is
extremely tight. Prices are at current levels in anticipation of that as
seasonal demand is up and rising," Hawkes said.
The tighter availability has
caused lead premiums in the European spot market to rise to $115-$120/ton over
the LME cash price, basis Rotterdam Duty Paid, up from $90-$100/ton.
The uptick in the spot market
is likely to filter through to the upcoming negotiations on longer-term contract
premiums, Hawkes said.
Lead battery demand, mostly
used in lead acid batteries for cars, typically rises before the winter months.


Fund activity in the comparatively small and illiquid lead market has so far
been restrained, while technical momentum funds still have room to add to long
positions, a trader said.
Looking ahead, mine production
is set to rise during 2007 and should weigh prices down during the first half of
the year, analyst Stephen Br
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