September 21, 2010

Uranium Spot Prices at 10-Month High

Uranium is drawing interest from investors including hedge funds after prices for the nuclear fuel climbed to the highest level in more than 10 months, according to Ux Consulting Co.

Uranium-oxide concentrate for immediate delivery remained at $48 a pound for a third week, Roswell, Georgia-based UxC said yesterday in a report. Prices are up 19 percent from this year’s low in March.

Hedge funds also were in the uranium market six years ago, UxC’s President, Jeff Combs, said yesterday by phone.

At that time, prices of the radioactive element were starting a surge in which they would jump more than fivefold in the three years through 2006. Uranium almost doubled again in 2007, reaching a record $136 a pound in June of that year.

“Interest from hedge funds and investors has started to re-emerge,” Combs said. “We did see it in 2004. Investors and hedge funds were getting interested, and they were ahead of the curve then. The question now is, is this the next up leg in the market?”

Price gains sped up after 2004 as governments around the world promoted nuclear energy in a bid to reduce dependence on fossil-fuel imports and curb emissions. Increased Chinese and Indian nuclear-power usage will help to maintain “strong” fuel demand, Energy Resources of Australia Ltd., the uranium producer controlled by Rio Tinto Group, said in May of this year.

Better Supply

The main difference compared with six years ago is improved supply of uranium, according to Combs. Output more than quadrupled in Kazakhstan, the world’s biggest producer, from 2003 to last year, according to figures from the World Nuclear Association. Production was little changed in 2009 in second- ranking Canada compared with 2003, WNA figures show.

“A key question is what the Kazakhs will do with respect to production in the future,” Combs said.

Kazatomprom, the state-owned Kazakh nuclear company, aims to raise uranium production by 29 percent to about 18,000 metric tons this year, Vice President Galimzan Pirmatov said on Sept. 16. Planned expansion may boost annual output to 25,000 tons by 2016, he said.

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