Shares of Century Aluminum (CENX -2.80%) are set to end the week near a price of $12.80, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence, up more than 20% from last Friday's closing price. The surge is rooted in hope for higher aluminum prices in the near and distant future.
Much of the credit for this week's surge can be given to President Joe Biden.
Last Friday, the President signed a proclamation imposing a 200% tariff on imports of aluminum products manufactured in Russia. Standard & Poor's, part of S&P Global, reports that Russia accounts for roughly 5% of the world's supply of aluminum, and a similar proportion of U.S. imports of the metal.
Although that's a small minority of the global and domestic aluminum market, the move is still expected to "increase domestic capacity utilization" of aluminum smelting plants like those operated by Century.
It's also possible, however, that investors are looking into the future without Biden's tariffs in mind.
While it's unlikely aluminum prices are poised to reach record levels seen in early 2022 immediately following Russia's invasion of Ukraine (posing a threat to the global metal market's supply chains) anytime soon, aluminum prices are trending higher from September's low. They're up more than 3% just this week, and higher to the tune of 15% for the past six months.
This gain mostly reflects hope for renewed worldwide economic growth this year. Goldman Sachs suggests this year's average price could reach $3,125 per ton, up nearly 30% from its current price, driven higher particularly by rekindled demand for aluminum in Europe and China.
While the tailwind is brewing, it's not firmly in place yet. Century Aluminum's fiscal fourth-quarter sales fell short of most estimates, and though the adjusted operating loss was better than expected, it's still a loss. The current year's sales are also projected to fall by 26% year over year, keeping the company's profitability to a minimum.
Interested investors, however, may still want to go ahead and pull the trigger now rather than waiting to step into the stock at a later time.
It's well into the future, but as of the latest look, the analyst community is calling for a full rebound of Century Aluminum's business. Next year's consensus earnings outlook of $1.86 per share is leaps and bounds better than this year's expected $0.54, to be fueled by top-line growth of nearly 22%.
And that's a conservative consensus estimate. Fintel.io puts next year's per-share earnings figure at well above $2.00, en route to considerably more profits beyond then.
All of these outlooks, however, suggest one thing: An economic recovery is in the cards in the foreseeable future, renewing demand for all industrial metals. It's very likely Century shares will start to reflect this rebound well before it fully materializes. Indeed, it already looks like this is happening.
This stock's still one best left for speculators that can stomach some volatility. But, the prospective upside is tremendous, even after this week's big gain.