Articles in Category: Macroeconomics

Nickel has been in the throes of a long bear market, but there are reasons to be optimistic about a price bounceback for this industrial metal.

According to a recent report from the Financial Times, demand from China and the electric car battery market heating up could spur a nickel price boost in the coming months.

However, investors should still exercise caution.

Want a short- and medium-term buying outlook for aluminum, copper, tin, lead, zinc, nickel and several forms of steel? Subscribe to our monthly buying outlook reports!

“True, there are plenty of negatives out there,” writes Alan Livsey for the Financial Times. “Supply growth from smelters in China and Indonesia has yet to abate. Forced destocking from end users and traders has made matters worse. Goldman Sachs expects net supply growth will nearly triple in 2018 from the estimated 37,000 tonnes this year.”

Livsey added if supply can be curtailed and demand grows as projected, nickel’s once low reputation with investors could see a significant change in direction.

Are Commodities as a Whole ‘Losing their Roar’?

Our own Irene Martinez Canorea recently wrote how June has not been particularly kind to metal producers, beginning with the U.S. Federal Reserve spiking interest rates up by 0.25%.

She writes: “The most recent Fed rate hike breathed a little life into the dollar, which has fallen for most of this year. We believe this could have a direct impact on the metals industry — namely, causing prices to fall.”

How will nickel and base metals fare in 2017? You can find a more in-depth nickel price forecast and outlook in our brand-new Monthly Metal Buying Outlook report.

For a short- and long-term buying strategy with specific price thresholds:

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The International Lead and Zinc Study Group (ILZSG) released preliminary data for this year, which showed the global market for refined zinc metal was in deficit during the first four months of the year. Total reported zinc inventories also declined during that time.

The ILZSG report stated that world zinc mine production grew 7.3% for the first four months of 2017 compared to the same time last year, mostly due to increased output in China, India, Peru, Turkey and Eritrea.

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Furthermore, growth in refined zinc metal production in France, Kazakhstan and India were offset by reductions in Peru, Canada and the Republic of Korea, leading to an overall worldwide increase of 1.6%.

Worldwide refined zinc metal demand grew 3.7% during this time frame, mostly due to a 42.9% recovery in apparent usage in the U.S.

China’s Effect on Zinc Prices

The ILZSG report stated: “China imported a total of 385kt of zinc contained in zinc concentrates, an increase of 58kt compared to the same period of 2016. Chinese net imports of refined zinc metal amounted to 99kt, a decrease of 114kt.”

How will zinc and base metals fare in 2017? You can find a more in-depth zinc price forecast and outlook in our brand-new Monthly Metal Buying Outlook report.

For a short- and long-term buying strategy with specific price thresholds:

Macro photo of a piece of lead ore

The International Lead and Zinc Study Group (ILZSG) released its findings for June, showing global refined lead metal demand exceeded supply during the first four months of the year.

Want a short- and medium-term buying outlook for aluminum, copper, tin, lead, zinc, nickel and several forms of steel? Subscribe to our monthly buying outlook reports!

In addition, the ILZSG report revealed total reported stock levels increased during that same time frame. An increase in worldwide lead mine production, to the tune of 13% year-over-year (compared to the first four months of 2016), is primarily the result of increased production in China.

Furthermore, a global refined lead metal output increase of 8.4% can be attributed to India, China and the United States.

The ILZSG report states: “A sharp rise in net imports was the main influence on an increase in US apparent demand of 22.8%. There was also a strong rise in Chinese apparent usage of 16.4%. European demand increased by a more modest 1.5% with overall global demand up by 11.15%.”

How will lead and base metals fare in 2017? You can find a more in-depth lead price forecast and outlook in our brand-new Monthly Metal Buying Outlook report.

For a short- and long-term buying strategy with specific price thresholds:

Before we head into the weekend, let’s take a look back at a few of this week’s stories:

Benchmark Your Current Metal Price by Grade, Shape and Alloy: See How it Stacks Up

A Surprise in the U.K.

Iakov Kalinin/Adobe Stock

Our Stuart Burns wrote about the U.K. parliamentary elections, which surprised many and saw Labour outperform expectations against Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party.

What does the election result mean for business? Well, that will partially be determined by which path to Brexit the U.K. ultimately takes. Burns writes there is likely to be compromise and a search for alternate solutions — that is, a softer Brexit.

The 411 on 232

White House spokesman Sean Spicer announced Monday the findings of the administration’s Section 232 investigation into steel imports could be released as early this week.

Although the findings have yet to be released, our Lisa Reisman laid out the potential outcomes and impacts of the investigation on Wednesday.

How will the recommendations affect steel prices domestically? No one knows for sure, of course, but Reisman wrote we shouldn’t jump to conclusions about potential price increases.

“Some have speculated that the forthcoming recommendations would force prices higher, however, we would not necessarily rush to that same conclusion,” Reisman wrote.

Markets showing pessimistic side

Burns also wrote this week about commodities markets — and not just metals, but oil, too — which have seen a drop in optimism of late.

What’s the downtrend all about? Many reasons, Burns argues, including: oversupply, the Chinese government “squeezing investors by increasing shadow banking borrowing costs,” and waning optimism with respect to the Trump administration delivering on campaign promises regarding massive infrastructure projects.

But not to send you into your weekend on a down note — it’s not all cloudy skies.

“With that said, that doesn’t mean the U.S. or global economies are about to tank,” Burns writes. “European growth has been much better this year and Japan is expected to improve further, while the World Bank is predicting an unchanged 2.7% global growth this year in its latest report.”

June MMI Report Released This Week

In case you missed it, our monthly MMI Report was released this week; as always, it’s jam-packed with information.

The report covers markets trends in our 10 sub-indexes: Automotive, Aluminum, Construction, Copper, Global Precious, GOES (grain-oriented electrical steel), Rare Earths, Raw Steel, Renewables and Stainless Steel.

Want to know what’s happening in any of these categories? Get yourself up to speed by checking out the June report, which you can access by visiting the link below.

Free Download: The June 2017 MMI Report

Tin prices continue to suffer with Chinese competition and Shanghai trading counteracting limited supply on the London Metal Exchange (LME).

Generally speaking, limited supply of a commodity should translate to a rise in price — this has not been the case for tin.

In a recent opinion piece for Bloomberg, Shelley Goldberg, founder and principal at Invest-with-Purpose, writes that despite tin inventory at LME warehouses reaching 20-year lows, prices are also down, to the tune of more than 5% since the start of the year.

Want a short- and medium-term buying outlook for aluminum, copper, tin, lead, zinc, nickel and several forms of steel? Subscribe to our monthly buying outlook reports!

The reason? Goldberg writes that exchange trading competition from China is to blame.

Goldberg writes: “Low inventory levels have also historically resulted in an increase in both volume and open interest; however, for LME tin they have been falling, too. Average LME daily tin volumes this year slipped by 14 percent from January to April, compared with the same period a year earlier. On an annual basis they fell 7 percent in 2016 and 31 percent in 2015. Open interest has also been declining, totaling 16,152 lots at the end of April, compared with 22,563 lots a year earlier.”

Reconciling the SFE and LME

She added that LME is no longer the exclusive exchange for data and information on the metals markets, as the Shanghai Futures Exchange is now challenging its monopoly.

Goldberg concludes: “The bottom line is that attempting to arbitrage LME and Shanghai tin is not as easy as it may seem (different currencies, contract sizes, terms, and so on). But suffice it to say, assessing the tin markets from a more global perspective will undoubtedly provide a better perspective not only on the tin market, but on the world’s economy.”

How will tin fare in 2017? You can find a more in-depth tin price forecast and outlook in our brand-new Monthly Metal Buying Outlook report. For a short- and long-term buying strategy with specific price thresholds:

It won’t have escaped your notice that the shine has gone off the metals market.

Benchmark Your Current Metal Price by Grade, Shape and Alloy: See How it Stacks Up

Prices have been softening across not just metals but other commodities, like oil, too.

Consumers, of course, will not be complaining, but are nevertheless keen to understand what is going on and whether we are seeing a temporary dip or a move into a prolonged bear period.

Commodities in general are facing multiple headwinds.

While demand for iron ore and oil is steady, both markets are in oversupply. Oil prices have received short-term support from favorable comments around output cuts. Prices have subsequently continued to soften as long positions have been unwound and investors have concluded prospects of a supply balance are receding.

In China, the authorities have been squeezing investors by increasing shadow banking borrowing costs, resulting in positions being unwound and prices softening.

In the U.S., markets surged after President Donald Trump’s election victory with the expectation his campaign promises of trillion dollar infrastructure investment would create a building and consumption boom.

Since those heady days, the realization has set in that the desperately needed investment may not be quite as significant as first thought.

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The market for biomedical metals — like the ones used in orthopedic implants — is expected to reach $34.9 billion by 2025, according to a recent market research report. Sandor Kacso/Adobe Stock

This morning in metals news, a recent report predicts the global biomedical metal market will reach $34.9 billion by 2025, palladium continues to stand strong and metal makers are looking for new markets for their products.

Benchmark Your Current Metal Price by Grade, Shape and Alloy: See How it Stacks Up

Market for Biomedical Metals to Only Get Bigger

The market for biomedical metals is large — to put a number on it, it is expected to be valued at $34.9 million by 2025, according to a recent report from Accuray Research LLP.

According to the report, the biomedical metal market is expected to grow by a compound annual growth rate of 7.8% over the next decade.

Among the factors underpinning the expected growth are: increased demand for orthopedic implants; new developments in titanium-based alloys; and recent technical developments in biomedical metal.

Palladium Defies Analysts’ Expectations on Strong Run

At around $900 per ounce, palladium is trading at 16-year highs, according to a Platts report.

Analysts told Platts they saw no justification for palladium’s strength, especially considering a struggling Chinese automotive market (palladium is an important autocatalyst ingredient in gas-powered engines).

One Japanese analyst told Platts the current state of the palladium market was a “once every decade” situation.

Is a reversal in palladium prices on the way? Only time will tell.

New Markets for Metals

According to an article Wednesday in Bloomberg, makers of metals are looking for new commercial uses for their products, particularly as a boom in Chinese demand for raw materials has tempered. In general, China’s intent to crack down on credit — particularly on the heels of May’s Moody’s downgrade — has led many to believe a negative impact for metals markets will follow.

To make up for the loss of Chinese demand, producers of metals are looking for new markets for their products.

What uses do producers have in mind?

According to Bloomberg, a few uses include fertilizer, salmon cages, electric-car batteries and household cleaning products, among others.

Free Sample Report: Our Annual Metal Buying Outlook

Many expect growth to slow in China through the remainder of the year. As such, producers will have to get creative in finding new uses for their products, from cars to fertilizer and everything in between.

Our June MMI Report is in the books, and there’s a lot to unpack.

Benchmark Your Current Metal Price by Grade, Shape and Alloy: See How it Stacks Up

Out of 10 MMI sub-indexes, four posted no movement from our May MMIs. That wasn’t true for all, though, as the report shows promising signs for construction (compared with last year). Like the Construction MMI, growth in the automotive sector slowed a bit, but still performed better than at the same time last year.

In terms of policy, several things happening around the world will have macroscopic effects on these industries.

Domestically, the Trump administration’s ongoing Section 232 investigation into steel imports will have ripple effects at home and abroad (namely in the Chinese steel market).

In the U.K., the recent shocker of a parliamentary election leaves question marks regarding the way forward — is it going to be a “hard” or “soft” Brexit? Does Theresa May have the political capital to make a hard Brexit happen? It seems unlikely now, but that situation continues to develop. In terms of business and metal markets, whichever iteration of Brexit takes hold will have effects on the ways in which British companies do business with Europe.

In China, many analysts expect growth to slow in the second half of 2017 as the government aims to put the squeeze on credit growth. (Moody’s recently downgraded China’s credit rating for the first time since 1989.)

While several MMI sub-indexes did not go up or down this past month, there was still quite a bit going on in each sector. You can fill yourself in by downloading our June MMI Report, which offers all of the storylines and trends for our 10 MMI sub-indexes, presented in one convenient place.

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British elections and referenda have recently proved to be anything but boring.

Benchmark Your Current Metal Price by Grade, Shape and Alloy: See How it Stacks Up

Last week’s general election — called just a few short weeks ago at a time when Theresa May’s Conservative Party had a small but solid majority and the left wing Labour Party appeared in complete disarray — has delivered a crushing defeat for the prime minister’s hard Brexit policy.

The election result has once again thrown wide open the debate on what kind of deal the U.K. will — or even can — seek to strike with the European Union (EU) over the year ahead.

Theresa May called the election to give herself a stronger mandate to argue with the Europeans that no deal — meaning a break with Europe, falling back on basic World Trade Organization (WTO) rules — would be preferable to any kind of compromise the EU tries to impose.

Although not stated, it was tacitly understood the election was also intended to deliver her a larger majority in the House of Commons. That larger majority would have enabled her to ignore disruptive minor elements of her own party who may disagree with elements of a deal as the negotiation process unfolds.

What transpired was a dramatic swing to the left, with the loss of Conservative seats to the Labour Party. The result? No party enjoyed an overall majority.

The Conservatives have therefore been forced into a loose coalition with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), whose agenda differs from the Conservatives in one significant way.

Read more

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Copper prices rallied late last week on the heels of severe weather striking several South American mines, as well as labor issues cropping up in Indonesia.

According to a report from MarketWatch, copper prices climbed 1.12% to $5,688 per metric ton on the London Metal Exchange last Thursday morning.

Want a short- and medium-term buying outlook for aluminum, copper, tin, lead, zinc, nickel and several forms of steel? Subscribe to our monthly buying outlook reports!

Copper had previously opened the month on the low end, but unexpected weather and labor issues quickly reversed that trend:

“Those mine disruptions in Chile are the major supply-side news this week,” BOCI Global Commodities’s Xiao Fu told the news source.

In China, import data revealed an 8.5% month-over-month increase in refined copper imports.

“That increase is a fairly substantial one and is helping prices rebound after being beaten up over the past few weeks,” ETF Securities strategist Nitesh Shah told the news source.

Copper Prices Affected by Chinese Demand

The MetalMiner Copper MMI remained steady in June. Writes our own Irene Martinez Canorea:

“Currently, copper prices are directly affected by Chinese demand, as well as by uncertainty in supply. This downtrend in copper prices might be just a brief pause in a dynamic market. Thus, copper-buying organizations should watch the market closely, looking for a possible uptrend that would show a recovery.”

How will copper and base metals fare in 2017? You can find a more in-depth copper price forecast and outlook in our brand-new Monthly Metal Buying Outlook report. For a short- and long-term buying strategy with specific price thresholds: