China’s January aluminum production – new record

SMM today published a story reporting production statistics for January 2017.  According to the Shanghai-based company, January’s aluminum production came in at 3.04 million tons.

That’s a record high for China.  On a daily basis, it equates to 98,000t per day.

China's January 2017 aluminum production is reported at record highs
China’s January 2017 aluminum production is reported at record highs

But there’s always a problem with the official numbers that come out of China regarding aluminum production, and this number is no exception.  Why for instance is the daily run rate exactly 98,000t?   Not 97,9999 or 98,001.   And not a decimal point to be seen.  It’s almost as if someone in the CNIA simply took a number and multiplied it by the days in the month. Of course, they would never do that, would they…

And how exactly did they collect the data at the end of the month, when the offices at all 100 smelters in China were closed for Chinese New Year?

One also wonders why January 2017 had the rare phenomenon of having exactly 98,000t per day, when the only other month that achieved that was January 2016, when exactly 80,000t per day was recorded.  Not a decimal point to be seen that month either.

For the record, January 2017 is a 5% increase over December, and a whopping 22.5% increase over January 2016.   But as we have said many times before, it’s dangerous to take a single month’s number on its own in China, and the first quarter of each year is the worst.

There’s no doubt that aluminum production is increasing.  Each week in our Weekly Aluminum Alert, we report more capacity entering.  But we simply cannot use this number with any sort of reliability.   The early number is usually the same as the final number published by the IAI on the 21st of each month, but that doesn’t make it any more accurate.