Articles in Category: Humor

During the last few days, sellers were back in control of the stock market, sending shares, once again, to the lowest levels this year. I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve stopped looking at my Rollover IRA. It’d just depress me. Like a bad sequel, stock selloff part deux was better left unseen.

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Stocks had their worst quarter since 2011 amid growth worries, particularly about growth in China. The S&P 500 closed down 6.9% for the quarter. The NASDAQ Composite fell 7.4% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 7.6% amid a commodities selloff. It wasn’t just our beloved metals and other materials (off 17.1%) that were down for the quarter, either. Energy commodities were down 18.1%.

Stocks and Commodities: Both Down

S&P 500 one year out

The S&P 500, 1 year out. Source:

So we saw a bad quarter end this week. Big deal, right? It’s happened before. The problem, for investors, at least is that no one knows when or if China’s falling economy will hit rock bottom any time soon. In fact, stocks are retreating even more as I write this, based on those same fears.

Making up for metals and other raw materials demand from China that has snowballed for 15 years is no small task. That’s why we were skeptical of reports that US construction demand could be a safe haven for investors looking to put money into basic materials. Lower your expectations, guys.

Shed a Tear for Glencore… Or Don’t

Speaking of investors, we really hope you didn’t invest in Glencore. The miner/trader’s shares fell by 30% this week. My colleague, Stuart Burns, wrote that deal making is in Glencore’s DNA and all the overextended company need do is sell some of its mining assets to erase much of its inverse Scrooge McDuck-level debt pile, a whopping $46.98 billion.

Glencore stock 1 year out

Glencore stock, 1 year out. Source:

We still wouldn’t want to be in Ivan Glasenberg’s shoes right now. Even if they are fancy, gold-plated shoes.

It’s Not Just Metals! Oil Needs a Hug, Too

Remember earlier when we said energy commodities were down this quarter? That’s an understatement for oil. Oil is a special case in that its price impacts so many other commodities due to transportation and production costs for products created from pretty much any raw material.

The really bad news for oil is not only is it falling, it’ll probably keep going down in price next year, too.

The analysts’ consensus is that Iranian production is likely to pick up next year and China’s down economy will likely cause Beijing to overproduce and over-export domestic oil just like they already do with domestic steel.

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The theme of the week seemingly was overproduction leading to oversupply leading to even lower prices. With no real end in sight. That’s what we have to look forward to. Overproduction, oversupply and overwork.

The price funk that industrial metals are in got a little bit funkier for platinum and palladium this week as the two metals saw their prices plummet on news that Volkswagen AG has been cheating on its diesel vehicles’ emissions tests for years.

The intricate scheme puts even the New England Patriots’ best cheating efforts to shame, and that’s saying something. It centered on software in a diesel VW’s internal computer that was able to detect a testing scenario and turn its full emission control systems on. During normal driving, the automobiles would not have their emissions systems engaged. Or recall 482,000 cars in the US alone.

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Which begs the question, why not just run the full emissions control system all of the time, VW? Apparently, there’s a trade-off between performance and emissions when the control system is engaged and VW erred on the side of… performance? Such a decision programmed into software by a large, multinational automaker is shocking, especially since VW recently passed Toyota Motor Corp. as the world’s largest car company.


This innocent-looking Volkswagen Beetle TDI could have been polluting as much as 40 times beyond emissions standards.

VW’s decision has already impacted platinum prices. The funk they are in is now of “We’re An American Band” levels. Platinum fell to a 6-and-a-half-year low of $925.30 an ounce this week, after dropping 4% on Tuesday alone, its biggest one-day fall in more than 2 years. It could, eventually, be a boon for palladium, which is used as a catalyst in gasoline engines, if Europe adopts standards that make diesel engines less popular there due to the scandal but palladium is down, too, in the short term. Read more

As many expected, the Federal Reserve is keeping interest rates at record lows, due to, it says, a weak global economy, low inflation and instability in international financial markets.

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“Recent global economic and financial developments may restrain economic activity somewhat and are likely to put further downward pressure on inflation in the near term,” the Federal Open Market Committee said in a statement released at the conclusion of its two-day meeting this week.

Thanks A Lot, Global Equity Meltdown

In a press conference following the statement’s release, Fed Chair Janet Yellen said “the situation abroad bears close watching.”

I’ll say. We’ve been closely watching bears abroad (particularly in China) for some time now. Will this mean a continuation of the low metals prices we’ve seen lately? Only time will tell, but the Fed’s reticence comes after another week of falling metals and other commodities prices. Since the recovery here in the US has always seemed fragile, many say there is no sense in raising interest rates now that global equities markets have fallen sharply in the last month.

One Less LME Ring Trader

Meanwhile, JP Morgan Chase & Co. dropped out of the London Metal Exchange‘s open outcry ring this week, bringing the ring-trading tradition down to 9 members.


“Hey, you! I know you!” The LME’s one ring rules all trades. Image: The Wall Street Journal

Read more

As markets roil and metal producers and miners toil, it’s important to remember the importance of the holiday our US readers will celebrate this Monday.

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Labor Day honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of this country. And that’s why, with arms open, we celebrate the victory of labor, in the form of a multimillionaire athlete, Tom Brady, married to a supermodel, Gisele, who won big in federal court, sticking it to the man, his employer the NFL. Or as we call it, BIG FOOTBALL!

Finally! Someone thought about the feelings of millionaire athletes married to supermodels!


Won’t someone think of poor Tom? An oppressed laborer falling under the wheels of Big Football!

Judge Richard Berman wrote that because there was no notice of a 4-game suspension in the circumstances presented,NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell may be said to have “dispensed his own brand of industrial justice.”

Let’s leave aside for a moment whether NFL players are really “labor” at all, but reading this ruling – and, yes, we read all 40 pages of impressive legalese – drew up comparisons to other clashes about collectively bargained agreements workers and management.

Actual Laborers Locked Out

As we speak, Allegheny Technologies, Inc. is locking out workers in six states over healthcare contributions that it can’t come to an agreement over with the United Steelworkers of America. Unlike the NFL lockout a few years back, the ATI workers staged a large rally in Pittsburgh three days ago to show they are committed to fighting back against corporate’s insistence on larger healthcare contributions. I certainly do not remember Tom and Gisele walking the NFL equivalent of a picket line. Nor Peyton Manning cooking grilling to feed his displaced bethren during the work stoppage.

Unlike the NFL’s collectively bargained arbitration process, no one expects a resolution to ATI and the USW’s dispute anytime soon. It was a novel reading of labor law, though, that allowed Berman to decide that the NFL’s entire collectively bargained discipline process could be, essentially, thrown out because no one told Brady he could be suspended for so long or that he probably shouldn’t destroy his phone. Heck, the ATI workers are probably wondering how they’re going to pay their phone bills while they’re locked out, let alone how they’ll get new ones.

In Chile, They Lock Themselves In

Meanwhile, more than 70 Chilean copper miners are striking over unpaid wages and recently blocked themselves inside a shaft deep underground and are refusing food and water in protest. You think maybe Gisele went on a hunger strike to support Tom during his unfair persecution by The Man? Would anyone notice?

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This  was the second mining strike in recent months in Chile. In early August another group of copper miners ended a strike in which they blocked roads to mines to demand higher wages. One worker was killed by police in the 23-day protest. I hope Brady hired extra security during his principled stand. Who knows what Big Football is capable of?

The New England Patriots QB might not be fighting DIRECTLY with his brothers in Pittsburgh and Chile (especially not Pittsburgh, they play New England in a week), but he’s fighting the same metaphorical fight for workers’ rights everywhere. Ummm, sure.

After the market tumult of last week, many expected things to calm down and that China’s stock market would finally calibrate to the new, devalued yuan/renminbi while equity markets elsewhere would bounce back from Friday’s big sell. Heck, maybe even the beleaguered commodity markets might recover some of their losses, right?

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Wrong. Oil reentered a bear market on Tuesday extending the previous day’s losses, when Brent crude — the international benchmark — recorded its biggest one-day sell-off since February. After dropping more than 6% on Monday, Brent fell a further 2% in the next trading session to $55.40 a barrel. It is down more than a fifth from its year-high of $69.63 a barrel reached during intraday trading in May.

Not the Oil That Made Jed Clampett Rich

Not such a good time for oil companies but, at the very least, gas prices are down here in the US and costs for everything from construction to automobile production is down, too, right, so we must be on to step three, profit, right? Oh no, not even close. Construction material prices are down, but new construction spending isn’t exactly picking up, either. Not here and not in China, where lack of demand has led lead and zinc to five-year lows.


Jed Clampett made $9.5 billion in oil and gas. That likely would not have happened with today’s prices.

Incidentally, Forbes estimated Jed’s net worth at $9.5 billion, 4th on its “Fictional 15” list. That’s more than weapons tycoon Tony Stark (#6). Not bad for wealth based entirely on oil and gas discovered while hunting possums.

A Rebound in Stocks… Of Sorts

The Dow Jones Industrial Average has been back in positive territory, though, saving our collective retirements and paring the losses we saw last week. The Dow gained 369 points yesterday, alone, curbing the big losses from Friday and Monday. It’ll surely last, right? Ummm, no promises. While our own Stuart Burns acknowledged the rebound in western markets, he also cautioned that aftershocks from China’s economic crisis could be forthcoming.

“With (Chinese) GDP growth widely believed to be lower than the official government number of 7% it is hard to see how domestic consumption can pick up as households lick their wounds,” Burns wrote.

Free Download: Latest Metal Price Trends in the August MMI Report

So, in short, expect more volatility as China spares the rod of economic depression while spoiling the child with purposely devalued currency.

What Does This Mean for US Buyers?

Expect to pay less for Chinese steel. We know, it’s already dirt cheap as foreign imports were up 5% in July. The job of policing foreign dumping into the US market just got tougher.


Welcome to crazy MetalMiner’s low, low price week of falling metal prices, oil prices and devalued currency.


…maybe prices will be lower next week? Who can tell in this crazy market? Check out our Metal Price Outlook for MetalMiner’s expert opinion. Free sample in the link.

Bears Everywhere

Our August MMI Report shows that nine of the 10 metals we track have hit an all-time low since we started tracking them in January 2012. It’s been a gradual fall for sub-indexes such as raw steels and renewables, whereas aluminum and copper suffered big drops this month that coincided with historic London Metal Exchange lows.

Three Best Practices for Buying Commodities

The strong dollar continues to drag down all commodities, shunting investment dollars elsewhere and depressing prices of investment metals such as gold, which hit a six-year low last quarter, according to the World Gold Council. Guess what else hit a six-year low? Oil, of course! Read more

A giant robot fight will happen sometime next year.

I won’t try and justify this by the metal content — which is interesting in its own right  — or by the turn of fortunes that has been created by taking an old repair shop for cargo ships and turning into a new industrial enterprise, admirable as that is, no this posts stands on its own two mechanical feet as pure fun.

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The robot constructors of the American entry are three engineers who basically wanted to live out their childhood fantasies and build a fighting robot. Weighing in at 12,000 lbs. and measuring some 15-ft. tall the MegaBot MKII is everything a child could imagine and more.

MegaBot Mk11

MegaBot MKII. Image courtesy of MegaBot.

The backers have found a worthy opponent in Japan’s Suidobashi Heavy Industries Kuratas, against whom they can wage war. Read more

John W. Miller of the Wall Street Journal wrote an excellent piece yesterday about how metals are marketed these days. Who hasn’t heard “as strong as steel, as lightweight as aluminum or as luxurious as platinum?”


That soda can you’re drinking from is made from aluminum, just like the kind this jet fighter’s skin is made out of! Well, okay, not EXACTLY the same kind.

Often billed for its strength, steel is one of the most frequently mentioned metals in advertisements and Miller noted that Ford Motor Co. touted its Sierra Truck as made of rolled steel like “the hulls of submarines.”

Three Best Practices for Buying Commodities, Especially Super-Strong Aluminum!

Metallurgist John Tuzamos, an investor in metals companies, is quoted saying “the reason those hulls are so strong is that they’re coated with titanium.”

The strongest alloy available isn’t steel or titanium, either, except in metals marketing. That distinction has been taken over by barely marketed ultra-strong magnesium, which has seen advances in strength for a lightweight metal in recent years.

Platinum Jewelry vs. Platinum Uses

We have often noted the funny ways metals are marketed in the overall media here at MetalMiner. We counted on Taylor Swift last year to keep 2014 from being the first year on record in which there was no Recording Industry Association of America platinum album, a distinction tied to the jewelry and investment uses of the precious metal… even though its industrial uses such as automotive exhaust systems are more prevalent. Read more

jeff yoders chicago cubs 1060 project

Ahoy from the corner of Waveland and Sheffield.

After covering ‘Steel Dumping 101’ in Part 1 and how the grain-oriented electrical steel market is different in Part 2 of our inaugural podcast episode, we turn to a more random endeavor – checking out the Chicago Cubs’ 1060 Project at Wrigley Field to get our structural steel fix.

With Pepper Construction as the general contractor on the project, Jeff and I wanted to get some eyes on the latest phase of development. So how many tons of structural steel are likely involved here? What are some of the sourcing considerations for an undertaking such as the 1060 Project? And most important, what do the fans have to say about steel sourcing? Listen below!

Music: “All Those Devils…” by Holy Pain (

I recently read in USA Today about a theft in Kentucky in which the most valuable piece of loot was a stainless steel barrel full of 17-year-old Eagle Rare bourbon, valued around $11,000.


A humble stainless barrel containing $11,000 in aged bourbon was recently stolen. Photo: Gregory A. Hall, The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal)

In my time in the stainless industry I have heard of stainless steel being used in wine tanks and in the tequila-making process, but I was surprised to hear that stainless barrels are now being used in the making of bourbon.

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After all, it is the unused charred oak barrel that flavors bourbon as it ages.

Why Stainless?

During the traditional oak process, though, some liquid evaporates from the barrels—about 2% each year, according to Whiskey Magazine. The loss can be even greater in hotter climates such as Kentucky’s. The part lost is referred to as the “angel’s share” because it is the part of the bourbon the maker is supposedly sharing with the angels.

The theft of the stainless barrel of bourbon highlights one part of the process that many bourbon distillers would likely prefer the world not know about. The stainless barrel is used to store already aged bourbon until it needs to be bottled. Stainless steel doesn’t impact bourbon’s flavor, so the product can remain in the barrels for years until it’s ready to bottle. The longer some bourbons age, the more they can cost on the market. The use of stainless steel barrels in bourbon-making became more common in the 1990s.

The added benefit of storing bourbon in stainless rather than other oak barrels is that the distiller is not giving any more to the angels. Stainless steel barrels won’t allow our precious bourbon to evaporate. So, thank goodness for stainless steel barrels to ensure that the angels don’t overimbibe on America’s Native Spirit.

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