Steel imports into the US were up in October and Saudi Arabia is under pressure to turn off its spigots from fellow OPEC nations.
Steel Imports Up
Based on preliminary Census Bureau data, the American Iron and Steel Institute reported today that the US imported a total of 2,987,000 net tons (nt) of steel in October 2015, including 2,258,000 nt of finished steel, up 5.4% and 1.4%, respectively, vs. September final data.
On the year-to-date, through ten months of 2015, total and finished steel imports are 33,889,000 and 27,438,000 nt, respectively, down 8% and 2% respectively, vs. the same period in 2014. Annualized total and finished steel imports in 2015 would be 40.7 and 32.9 million nt, down 8% and 2% respectively vs. 2014 if the same levels persisted in November and December.
Saudi Arabia Under Oil Pressure
OPEC members including Iran have decided Saudi Arabia’s effort to force out smaller US shale producers by overproducing and lowering global oil prices was a failure and are preparing to press the Saudis directly to pull back on production at the group’s meeting this week.
This is the first full year for the new LBMA gold and silver prices. More open and transparent processes for precious metal prices can only help purchasers in the long run by giving them more information about what goes into the prices they are quoted. We are thankful for market transparency in all its forms.
Happy Thanksgiving from everyone here at MetalMiner!
That’s why our own MetalMiner IndX is updated daily with over 600 price points from domestic and multiple international markets. We’re always happy to add more open and transparent price points. Read more
The London Metal Exchange (LME) launched three new contracts this week — LME Aluminium Premiums, LME Steel Rebar and LME Steel Scrap, the first new contracts to be offered by the Exchange in more than five years.
You can now hedge aluminum physical delivery premiums using an LME contract. Source: iStock.
The two steel contracts are cash-settled against physical Turkish scrap and rebar price indexes as opposed to the current steel billet contracts that are settled by physical delivery and have largely proved to be a failure since launch.
Why, we might ask, would these new contracts prove anymore successful? Well acknowledging the failure with billet, the LME has worked assiduously to garner industry support both in the shaping and specification of the new contracts. Goldman Sachs, for example, is on the LME’s steel committee and major trading firms like Stemcor have publicly stated they intend to be actively involved from day one, although they still add the caveat “subject to market conditions and liquidity.”
Liquidity was always a major issue for the billet contract. It never secured anywhere near enough interest from the trade to generate sufficient volume and, hence, a fair market price.
Rebar and Scrap
The steel scrap and rebar contracts will be traded on LME Select in small lots of just 10 metric tons making them more accessible for smaller market players, while, at the same time, the LME is offering discounts for volume trades to encourage liquidity. Read more
Typically steel buyers look at short-term steel cycles — inventory cycles. These are what drive short-term pricing trends. Let’s face it. Most buyers think in terms of what their next purchase will be or, maybe at this time of year, the next year’s requirements.
However, from time-to-time, it’s worth sitting back and looking at the big picture; the long-term; over-the-horizon. It’s a useful thing to do. It provides some perspective.
The chart highlights global steel output since 1950. Very simply, we can look at 3 cycles.
1950-73 – steady growth. Post-war investment in North American infrastructure; the development of the automobile; reconstruction in Europe and the emergence of Japan. All drove steel production and consumption higher.
1973-98 – stagnation. The oil shock; light-weighting in cars, packaging, construction and increased efficiency. The end of investment in Europe and North America led to demand falling and only partially offset by the growth in emerging Asia.
1998-2014 – the emergence of China. A country of 1.4bn people industrialised and moved from the country to the city; a development model specifically based on steel-intensive capital investment.
Global Crude Steel Production ( 000 metric tons)
Steel prices since 1950. Source: Steel-Insight.
The first two cycles lasted 25 years; the last one has been 15 years.
Europe, North America and Japan (25% of global steel consumption) are mature consumers where steel consumption will perhaps grow 1% over the longer-term, and even that is under threat from aluminum in the automotive industry and lightweighting and efficiency elsewhere.
China (50%) has peaked. Construction is 70-80% of demand and that is a one-off use of steel. Once cities and roads are built, they don’t need to be renewed for a while. Steel consumption has peaked and could fall by 20% from here over the next decade.
Emerging economies (25%) were expanding, but in many cases, they were investing the super-profits of commodity gains from oil, metals and agriculture — from China. Without that bulwark, capital expenditure may plummet.
That means we could be in for a long period of stagnation and decline — 15-20 years based on previous cycles. It will be marked by mill closures, job losses and low prices. Yet the last period of stagnation gave birth to the minimills and a whole new dynamic group of steelmakers. It is not all doom and gloom.
Steel-Insight is a steel industry price-forecasting publishing company, based in Toronto. James May, the firm’s managing director, has been a steel industry analyst for 15 years and advises some of the major global steel trading companies, steel producers and steel consumers on the outlook for steel pricing and industry trends. For more information, visit www.steel-insight.com.
In early October I received a phone call from a well-known consultant/advisor within the domestic steel industry. He wanted to know if we were urging our readers to begin to hedge steel (meaning immediately hedge, as opposed to creating a hedging program).
My gut reaction to the question was to dodge it because I wanted to understand why he asked it. Our conversation went along the lines of this:
Him: Hi, Lisa. I heard you speak at the recent Steel Market Update event. I was just wondering if you were urging your readers to hedge steel.
MetalMiner Executive Editor Lisa Reisman
Me: Why do you ask?
Him: I think there is a lot more steel price upside risk than downside risk.
Me: I don’t disagree with you, in that prices are on the low end of the range relatively speaking, but in answer to your question, no, we are not telling our readers to hedge right now.
Him: Why not?
Me: Because we don’t see signs of a market bottom. Prices would have to stop falling and begin rising, crossing certain levels before we’d suggest companies hedge.
Him: So you don’t see upside risk?
Me: We don’t try and time the absolute lowest point of the market and then lock-in. We try to identify when the trend has shifted (from bear to bull) and take cover, then buy forward or hedge. Until we see evidence of a trend shift — and the market still looks negative to us —we don’t pay much attention to upside/downside risk, per se. It’s not relative in driving industrial buying behavior.
Source: Adobe Stock/Yury Zap
Is This Analyst Wrong?
That’s probably somewhat of an irrelevant question. He can be both right and wrong. Right in that, yes, there is likely more upside risk (e.g. steel can likely go a lot higher vs. a lot lower) but from an industrial metal buying perspective — I give it the big SO WHAT? Read more
Three-month Nickel on the London Metal Exchange fell on Monday to a new 12-year low, falling as low as $8,175 per metric ton. The metal is the biggest loser on the LME this year, losing around 45% of its value on the year-to-date.
Three-month London Metal Exchange nickel has now hit a 12-year low. Source: FastMarkets.com.
Nickel is the first metal falling below its 2009 low. With this, we believe the chances of other metals suffering the same fate have increased. Some base metals like copper are still trading well above their recession’s lows. Aluminum however, could be next.
In part one of this series, we analyzed how metal prices have fallen in three selling waves. In this section, we will analyze the current sell-off (third wave) in metal prices that a rising dollar is producing.
Investors expect that the Federal Reserve will rise interest rates in December for the first time since 2006 while the European Central Bank plans to continue with more easing monetary policy. This, and the fact that growth prospects look brighter in US than they do overseas both add to the dollar’s attractiveness. Indeed, we suspect that the bullish move in the dollar over the past few weeks could be the beginning of a bigger move which could depress metal prices even more down the road.
Let’s take a snapshot of industrial metals to see the individual impact of a rising dollar since mid-October.
Three-month London Metal Exchange aluminum. Source: MetalMiner analysis of FastMarkets.com data.
Aluminum prices are trading below $1,500 per metric ton, the lowest level since 2009. Notice how prices fell sharply as the dollar surged in mid-October (red arrow). Read more
As the US Green Building Council finished its annual Greenbuild Conference in Washington, DC, last week, one somewhat unlikely organization came away touting better opportunities for its green and sustainable products: The Steel Market Development Institute.
Steel, you say? Doesn’t it burn a lot of fossil fuels just to get the iron ore out of the ground? Isn’t the process to turn it into structural beams and bars energy-intensive and dirty, as well? Perhaps, if you’re looking at mined and milled steel only, but if you look at less-obvious concepts like reusability, material reduction through smart design, recyclability, decreased maintenance cost and empowerment of adaptive reuse, steel and, even some other metals, are ahead of the game when it comes to construction specification.
All of these green and sustainable steel-framed buildings might get a boost from new LEED standards. Source: Dmitry Ersler/Adobe Stock
The USGBC introduced will put its latest sustainable building certification, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design version 4 (LEEDv4), into effect early next year. It approaches building materials content credits in a completely different way than previous editions of LEED.
“The new version of LEED, the primary changes are in the materials section and those changes are mostly around things like lifecycle assessment, environmental product declarations, transparency really,” said Mark Thimons, vice president sustainability at the SMDI. “What’s it take to make this product? What’s in it?” Read more
“Today’s announcement highlights the LME’s new approach to market engagement,” said Garry Jones, CEO of the LME. “This has been an extremely customer-focused product launch, and we have collaborated with participants throughout the metals value chain to ensure we have created contracts that people want to trade.”
The new scrap and rebar contracts will be traded on LMEselect, allowing industry participants to reduce their risk exposure by hedging more steps in the steel production process. The contracts are cash-settled against physical Turkish scrap and rebar price indexes.
The new ferrous contracts will be supported by market-making programs to optimize market depth and tightness of spreads.
With the physically settled aluminum premiums contract, participants can now hedge the regional all-in price to ensure the metal they receive is readily available in a non-queued LME warehouse at a convenient location
It is set to give an impetus to steel, aluminum and composite materials demand in the country. Recently, US aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co. and India’s Tata Advanced Systems Ltd. (TASL) announced a joint venture to manufacture aerostructures for aircraft beginning with the reputed AH-64 Apache fighter helicopter.
Make in India, in this case, means making Apache helicopters there thanks to a joint venture with Boeing. Source: Adobe Stock / VanderWolf Images
The joint venture, according to media reports, would also then compete for additional manufacturing work packages across Boeing platforms, both commercial and defense.
Burgeoning Private Defense Industry
Currently, as many as 14 Tata companies are providing support to India’s defense and aerospace sector. In addition to TASL. The list also includes Tata Advanced Materials, a company that has delivered composite panels for cabinets and auxiliary power unit door fairings for the P-8I long-range maritime surveillance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft.
Another company, TAL Manufacturing Solutions, has manufactured floor beams out of composite materials for the Boeing 787-9, and provided ground support equipment for the C-17 Globemaster III strategic airlifter. Read more