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White-Hot Metal Market Cools in Warning for Global Economy

  • Premiums for aluminum billets are dropping sharply in Europe
  • Market has been a microcosm for Europe’s supply chain travails
A worker pours molten aluminum from a crucible in the foundry at an aluminum smelting plant in Shelekhov, Russia.

A worker pours molten aluminum from a crucible in the foundry at an aluminum smelting plant in Shelekhov, Russia.

Source: Bloomberg

A white-hot corner of the aluminum market that for months defied a broader slide in metal prices is finally slumping, flashing a warning that major industrial economies are stumbling toward a recession.

While commodity-grade aluminum ingots have been tumbling since March on the London Metal Exchange, until recently the premiums paid for specialized products like billets remained sky-high. Now those premiums for aluminum billets -- a cornerstone industrial product used to make extruded parts in buildings, cars and machinery -- are slumping from record highs in Europe.