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Alcoa surprise loss spells more woes for world economy

Friday, October 21st, 2022

A photo of Alcoa's operations

A surprise quarterly loss by US economic bellwether and aluminum giant Alcoa added to jitters over the world economy as the metal used in everything from iPhones to Pepsi cans hits headwinds.

Metals have slumped as hawkish central banks fight inflation, Europe faces an energy crisis and China’s economy struggles to recover. Goldman Sachs Group says commodities are already pricing a 5% or more hit to industrial demand in major economies, and that more declines for metals are due through early 2023.

Alcoa, typically among the first of the world’s metals giants to deliver earnings, posted an adjusted loss of $60-million for what it called a “challenging quarter” with significantly lower prices, and higher costs for energy and raw materials.

Aluminum has fallen by nearly half since reaching a record in March, when Russia’s attack on Ukraine sparked fears over supply. Since then, China’s chronic property crisis and global monetary tightening have dragged on metals. The dollar’s surge has also been critical, making metals more expensive for buyers in other currencies.

The International Monetary Fund recently slashed its outlook for global growth and said one third of the global economy risks contracting next year. The World Steel Association on Wednesday reversed an earlier forecast for modest demand growth for the alloy this year to calling a contraction.

Alcoa sank more than 6% in aftermarket trading in New York on Wednesday, and shares in aluminum stocks in Asia followed the US producer lower in early trading on Thursday. Australia’s South32 fell as much as 4.5%, and China Hongqiao Group as much as 5.1%

Goldman said in a note that “macro bearish headwinds will continue to depress the metals sector” into the fourth quarter and the start of 2023. It sees aluminum at $2 100 a ton in three months, down from $2 195.50 as of 12:32 a.m. in Shanghai.

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