Articles in Category: Inventory Stock Levels

Most aluminum consumers seem quite content with the range-bound behavior of the light metal over recent months.

Click Here for Current Metal Prices

Aluminum on the London Metal Exchange has been trading broadly between $1,700 and $1,750 per metric ton for much of the fourth quarter. Maybe not to the same extent as copper or zinc, but aluminum along with most of the base-metal sector benefited from renewed investor interest as 2016 went on. Although net long positions have been trimmed back following some recent significant deliveries into LME warehouses, the consensus remains positive regarding prices for 2017. Read more

As we continue to spotlight and republish our top posts of 2016, we travel way back to New Year’s Day 2016 for another metal price story. This one by our Editor-at-Large and MetalMiner Co-Founder, Stuart Burns noting an aluminum price increase from almost exactly one year ago today. — Jeff Yoders, editor.

Aluminum has since taken off with the rest of the base metals and we’re in a full bull market. It’s quite a contrast from situation just one year ago.

The London Metal Exchange (LME) aluminum price has risen from the low $1,400s per metric ton in October to the mid $1,550s this week.

MetalMiner Price Benchmarking: Current and Historical Prices for the Metals You Buy

At the same time, the Japanese have started settling first quarter 2016 physical delivery premiums at $110 per mt, 22% higher than the previous quarter, the first time they have risen in a year.

rolled aluminum on table with worker

What is behind the increase in the aluminum prices? Adobe Stock/uwimages.

Meanwhile, probably not unconnected, Japanese port stocks have fallen at the country’s three major ports. Stockpiles fell in November by 7.5% to 401,000 mt according to Reuters. Over the in US, the Midwest transaction price, which includes the LME price and premium that buyers pay to take delivery of the metal, has risen steadily this month to $1,736 per metric ton by December 24, up from $1,599/mt on 28 October, which was its lowest point since May 2009. Read more

A massive stockpile of 500,000 metric tons of aluminum has been trucked out of the Mexican city of San José Iturbide and shipped to a remote port in Vietnam, according to shipping records and people familiar with the matter.

MetalMiner Price Benchmarking: Current and Historical Prices for the Metals You Buy

The Wall Street Journal reports that the stockpile is believed to be related to or entirely the product of Chinese aluminum producer China Zhongwang. As a result of moving the massive stockpile, Vietnam has become a major importer of aluminum extrusions this year.

Preliminary Steel Exports Down

Based on preliminary Census Bureau data, the American Iron and Steel Institute reported that the U.S. imported a total of 2,682,000 net tons of steel in October, including 2,225,000 nt of finished steel (down 3.4% and up 4.7%, respectively, vs. September final data).

Two-Month Trial: Metal Buying Outlook

On the year-to-date (YTD), through 10 months of 2016, total and finished steel imports are 27,486,000 and 22,017,000 nt, down 19% and 19.8%, respectively, vs. the same period in 2015. Annualized total and finished steel imports in 2016 would be 33.0 and 26.4 million nt, down 15% and 16.1%, respectively, vs. 2015. Finished steel import market share was an estimated 26% in October and is estimated at 25% on the year.

Many active investors in the aluminim market will have watched, perplexed and confused, as to why the London Metal Exchange price continues to rise, yet the fundamental reality is one of, if not an oversupplied market, at least one with no shortage of metal in storage.

MetalMiner Price Benchmarking: Current and Historical Prices for the Metals You Buy

Producers will claim some credit for cutting capacity and talking up demand, which — to be fair — both positions hold some water. Western smelters in the U.S. and Europe have been relentless in cutting uneconomic refining in the face of weak prices.

Aluminum Smelter Closures

Source: CRU

This graph from CRU shows the steady demise of the U.S. primary aluminum smelting industry and you only have to Google “closure of aluminum smelters” or something similar and you will get a litany of stories about smelters being closed or facing imminent closure around the world.

Production Overseas

At the same time, though, production in the Middle East has jumped from 0.9 million metric tons (mmt) in 1999 to an expected 5.7 mmt this year, and Chinese primary production has skyrocketed from 2.6 mmt in 1999 to reach 31.2 mmt in 2015, with more to be added in 2016. Read more

A recent CRU note shined some useful light on how the reporting of aluminum inventory in China has been distorted by changes in the supply chain between smelters and downstream consumers. Our reporting of primary metal inventory generally measures exchange stocks of ingot, sows and t-bars, and adds in an estimate for off-market stocks held by trade buyers and the reported inventory held by smelters.

MetalMiner Price Benchmarking: Current and Historical Prices for the Metals You Buy

It is a process that has generally held us in good stead for decades — with the one glaring omission of off-market stock and finance trade inventory running into millions of tons that we have no visibility on, but that’s another matter! Well add to that, says CRU, the changing nature of the Chinese aluminum manufacturing industry.

China’s Shadowy Aluminum Industry

Lured by cheap coal and, as a result, low-cost power, Chinese smelters have relocated in droves to the north and north east provinces, remote from traditional downstream clients on the east coast.

Liquid Molten Metal

Is the future of aluminum liquid? Source: Adobe Stock/kybele.

Transportation costs are high and can be unreliable, particularly in winter. So, Chinese customers have come to their metal suppliers, relocating cast-house and direct casting facilities adjacent to the smelters. The products they, in turn, produce are higher value and better able to absorb those transportation costs. So far, so good. Read more

With the closure of western aluminum smelters and widely reported global growth in demand of 5 to 6% per year, why have London Metal Exchange aluminum prices remained rangebound in the mid-1600s per metric ton? Why do physical delivery premiums continue to fall?

MetalMiner Price Benchmarking: Current and Historical Prices for the Metals You Buy

Thomson Reuters recently reported that Japanese buyers have agreed quarterly premiums of $75 dollars per ton over the LME cash price for the shipments in the fourth quarter of this year. This will be the lowest premiums have been since Q3 2009 and a massive drop from the level Japanese buyers were paying in Q1 2015 when premiums reached $425 a ton. Read more

Copper has been on a bit of a roll this month. After a quiet summer, investors have been looking at growing concentrate imports in China and increased refining to pure copper as signs that Chinese demand is picking up.

MetalMiner Price Benchmarking: Current and Historical Prices for the Metals You Buy

A recent article by Reuters throws some light on what is going on behind the scenes that suggests while demand from refiners is robust, it does not mean demand from China’s consumers is equally as strong and rising imports should not necessarily be seen as a bullish sign for copper.

Copper Price

Source: Kitco.com

The metal had hit a four-week high last week, approaching $4,800 per metric ton after better-than-expected Chinese data lifted sentiment. Read more

In a previous post about procurement-led inventory finance, we explained how in a zero-sum game, large buying organizations — when engaging directly with suppliers — often deploy forceful if not arbitrary rules around payment terms, delivery terms and even the reduction of inventory levels. These tactics, used to reduce working capital, each bring additional, mostly unnecessary risks and buyers working with sellers as a team could be more effective in assuaging such concerns.

MetalMiner Price Benchmarking: Current and Historical Prices for the Metals You Buy

New techniques and business practices based on inventory financing tied to broader procurement and supply-chain strategies have started to become more mainstream and they can help your business reduce its exposure to commodity price swings, long production times and other risks in the metals supply chain.

If you’re a large manufacturer, a metals service center or a metal producer, you can take advantage of these techniques and essentially link the buyer, seller and financing institution to lower financing costs to improve business efficiency.

Metals-Manufacturing_inventory_chart_550_092616

Supply chain financing connects financial transactions to value as it moves through a supply chain. Instead of all parties working to maximize their profits and efficiency individually, supply chain financing links the chain financially, allowing it to work together as a team, maximizing value at each link and speeding products and transactions along. It’s the difference between individual companies working in silos and all of them truly functioning as one unit. Read more

You get the sense speaking with Trevor Raymond, Director of Research at the World Platinum Investment Council that the Platinum market is like a ticking time bomb – they are my words not his but during an interview prior to the release of the WPIC’s Platinum Quarterly Report for Q2, Trevor disclosed details about the supply side to the platinum market that bear further scrutiny.

MetalMiner Price Benchmarking: Current and Historical Prices for the Metals You Buy

The platinum market has been in deficit for five years now, a series of strikes and outages have consistently led to poor supply side numbers and 2015 was no different running a 520,000 ounce deficit. Investors looking for price increases have been thwarted by large, above-ground stocks that, while difficult to accurately quantify, are estimated by the WPIC as dwindling from some 4 million ounces to a current level of 2 million ounces over the period. Read more

Historically low food commodity prices are causing mayhem for farmers and equipment manufacturers as the decreasing returns on investment are keeping older equipment in the field and China has started stockpiling rare metals again.

Low Food Prices Hamstring Farm Equipment Manufacturers

The U.S. is on track this year to post the longest stretch of falling food prices in more than 50 years.

Two-Month Trial: Metal Buying Outlook

The trend is being fueled by an excess supply of dairy products, meat, grains and other staples and less demand for many of those same products from China and elsewhere due to the strong dollar.

Deere & Co. (maker of John Deere tractors and farm equipment) plans to cut additional production of its trademark green tractors and harvesting combines this fall in response to the continued downturn in the global farm economy as farmers are making due with their current machines due to low ROI on their crops.

The world’s largest maker of farm equipment by sales said the cuts will affect plants in Illinois and Iowa, blaming weak demand in North America and markets in Europe and South America for the moves.

China’s Stockpiling Rare Metals Again

China is stockpiling rare metals and curbing output to tighten global markets, pushing up prices of some materials despite sluggish underlying demand.

The metalloid antimony went for around $7,100 a metric on the London spot market in early August. This marked a climb of a little over 10% from a recent low in early June, as well as a one-year high.

Free Download: The August 2016 MMI Report

Over the past year, antimony has for the most part traded at $5,000 to $7,000 per mt, weighed down by sluggish demand and overproduction. China, which produces roughly 80% of the metalloid worldwide, has cracked down on smuggling and in early spring began using environmental regulations to halt operations at major producers. But this resulted in only a slight upturn in prices on the international market.