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Nickel Alloy Prices

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Stainless Steel Prices

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Articles on: Metal Prices

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Before we dive into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the week in metals news:

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

  • Our Stuart Burns started out the week with a piece on confirmation bias and how those in the media and metal-buying communities can sometimes let bias affect their interpretation of data.
  • What’s the diagnosis for the ailing U.K. steel industry? According to Burns, it’s a product of a lack of government support and global oversupply. A recent report showed that the U.K. steel industry has declined in monetary output value by 30% from 1990 to 2013.
  • In case you missed it, our July MMI report has long been in the books. You can download it here.
  • What did the recent G20 summit in Germany mean for India? Our Sohrab Darabshaw touched on the subject this week.
  • What’s up with oil prices? Unsurprisingly, as with the metal markets, prices are so low because there is just so much of the stuff out there. Burns dug deeper into oil price trends in a piece earlier this week.
  • What’s a Section 332? In short, it’s a fact-finding investigation by the United States International Trade Commission, which recently conducted a large-scale look into the competitive factors affecting the U.S. aluminum industry.
  • Another big story, the ongoing debate regarding a potential renegotiation of NAFTA, got an update this week when it was announced that the U.S., Canada and Mexico will come together for talks beginning Aug. 16.

Free Download: The July 2017 MMI Report

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Tin prices strengthened on the non-ferrous metals market this week as a result of stockist purchases due to firm demand from alloy industries.

According to a report from the Business Standard, tin joined copper cable scrap, zinc and copper wire bar as having also moved up due to growing demand from their industrial bases.

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!

This growth may only be temporary, as our own Irene Martinez Canorea wrote just last month that the outlook remains bearish for the tin metal market.

She wrote that, similar to its sister metals, tin prices declined starting from the beginning of June. A market analysis of tin prices and trading activity indicates a more bearish outcome for the metal.

Canorea wrote: “According to the International Tin Research Institute (ITRI), the fluctuation of tin stocks has varied based upon tin prices in the market. Indonesian exports remain robust, with an increase of 10% in May compared to April. However, Myanmar tin exports decreased slightly again in May. This reduction of Myanmar output is expected to continue until the end of this year, as analyzed in detail in our monthly forecast reports.”

China Influencing Tin Prices

Canorea also noted that tin prices may also be impacted by the approval of a new Chinese policy that will directly affect the largest tin-producing company in China.

She added: “This policy consists of the removal of the valued-added tax (VAT) structure, which taxes imports of tin concentrates and was supposed to provide a tax rebate of 17% on exports. The catch? Exporters were never able to collect the rebate, so they ended up buying tin exclusively from domestic sources.”

How will tin and base metals 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:

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This morning in metals news, the wait for Section 232 continues, investors are betting on copper as electric cars grow in popularity and palladium is having a record year.

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Section 232 Watch Drags On

These days, folks in the aluminum and steel industries are looking for any sliver of information regarding what the Trump administration will do with its Section 232 investigations.

Many expected the steel investigation results to be announced by the end of June, but that never happened. Regardless, on Wednesday President Trump told a reporter that tariffs on steel imports “could happen.”

Not exactly the most illuminating quote, but it’s something. Given Trump’s economic rhetoric, both as a candidate and as president, the likelihood of some form of protective measures being instituted seems fairly high.

Copper and Cars

As automotive companies, from Tesla to traditional automotive industry stalwarts, compete to develop next-generation vehicles, investors are betting on copper, according to a report in the Financial Times.

How much more copper will be needed to back the next wave of automotive production?

Estimates vary, but one thing is certain: copper will play a very big role and, as such, demand for it will be high.

Big Year for Palladium

It’s been an up-and-down year for some metals in 2017 — but not palladium.

In fact, palladium is expected to hit its highest annual average price on record this year, Reuters reports. Even more, platinum has outperformed platinum in a big way.

But the question is: Can it last?

“We remain constructive on palladium’s outlook,” Standard Chartered analyst Suki Cooper told Reuters. “Not only is the market set to deliver a deficit this year, but it looks set to be undersupplied over the coming years.”

Free Download: The July 2017 MMI Report

While it’s easy to look askance at something that shoots up in price so quickly, there are indications that palladium will continue to be a strong player in the market.

The Trump administration’s Section 232 investigations have been getting all the headlines — but let’s not forget about Section 332.

Participate in MetalMiner’s Budgeting Workshop on July 26 to help set your 2018 metals budget

Earlier this month, the House Ways and Means Committee released the United States International Trade Commission’s (USITC) Section 332 investigation into the competitive factors affecting the U.S. aluminum industry. (A Section 332 entails a fact-finding investigation “on any matter involving tariffs or international trade, including conditions of competition between U.S. and foreign industries.”)

The lengthy report, which checks in at just over 600 pages, details the major competitive forces at play in the global aluminum market and how those forces impact the U.S. aluminum industry. Unlike its Section 232 counterpart, the 332 report — which focuses on 2011-2015 — predates the Trump administration. The Ways and Means Committee requested the report from the USITC in February 2016.

The report offers a sweeping, macroscopic view of the U.S. aluminum industry and the global picture, too. Like the Department of Commerce’s 232 probe, China figured prominently in the findings of the USITC survey.

Among the key points in the report is China’s role as the principal driver of the aluminum market during the time frame assessed (2011-2015). During that time, China’s production skyrocketed, so  much so that it became the world’s largest aluminum producer and consumer, and ranked second behind the U.S. in secondary unwrought production.

Source: Compiled by USITC staff from CRU Group.

Aluminum associations from the U.S., Canada and the European Union praised the USITC report. In a joint release Monday, the Aluminum Association of the United States, the Aluminium Association of Canada and European Aluminium all praised the report for touching on the industry’s biggest buzzword today: oversupply.

“The study details the government-sponsored rise of Chinese aluminum production in the global market and the effect of Chinese oversupply on global prices, which fell roughly 30 percent during 2011–15,” the joint release said. “Chinese government intervention in the form of programs and subsidized loans for electricity has played a significant role in China’s aluminum expansion.”

The release also reiterated the associations’ desire to work with the Chinese government to reach a “negotiated agreement” that would “result in measurable and consequent reductions in Chinese aluminum capacity and/or growth.”

Among other findings, the USITC report noted government intervention is high worldwide  (and not just from China).

The study also found the chief determinant of competitiveness for primary aluminum producers to be electricity costs, while for secondary and wrought producers the determinants were reliable scrap supplies and proximity to end markets.

Unsurprisingly, however, the study also found that China proved to be the exception to the aforementioned expectations for competitiveness.

“Despite having a fairly new aluminum industry, relatively high electricity costs in many regions, and a less developed consumer economy than many other countries where the industry is important, China is the world’s leading aluminum producer,” the report states.

While the aluminum associations of the U.S., Canada and Europe submitted a joint statement in support of the report’s findings, the U.S. industry might have more at stake than anyone. Per the report, “U.S. primary production capacity shrank more than in any other large producing country.”

“A combination of factors, including relatively high electricity rates; limited investments in new technologies; and currency appreciation have all contributed to the United States’ loss of competitiveness in this segment in recent years,” the report goes on to state.

As such, it’s not surprising that the U.S. aluminum industry is looking to the Department of Commerce’s Section 232 investigation for relief. U.S. aluminum smelters dropped in number from 23 to five in the last two decades. Some good news did come out recently when Alcoa announced July 11 that it would be partially reopening an aluminum smelter near Evansville, Ind.

With a delay in the announcement of the Section 232 steel investigation, however, the 232 aluminum announcement will likely be pushed down the road, as well.

The Aluminum Association CEO and President Heidi Brock was clear in a letter to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross regarding requests to exclude certain Chinese products from any hypothetical 232 trade remedies.

“… we respectfully request that the Commerce Department recommend actions to the President under Section 232 to address China’s massive and growing overcapacity, without allowing for broad exclusions (with the exception of aluminum powder, as addressed previously by the Aluminum Association), and while protecting existing trading relationships with Canada and Europe,” Brock wrote in the letter dated July 18.

The letter came in response to a request from the Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI), which asked Ross to exclude aluminum can sheets and aluminum ingot — used for beverage cans — from tariffs or other trade protections that could result from 232.

Free Download: The July 2017 MMI Report

It might be a while before the Section 232 aluminum probe comes to a conclusion and policy recommendations are drafted. Whatever happens, it will be interesting to watch the dynamic between primary and downstream producers, who approach this debate with very different business needs. Similarly, the CMI request is just one of its kind — there will surely be others. How will the administration deal with these requests? Will it allow industry sub-groups, like the beverage lobby, to carve out exceptions?

Or, will the hypothetical trade response include a blanket measure against all Chinese products, regardless of type?

That remains to be seen. What is still certain, however, is that many in the U.S. aluminum industry are looking for help from Section 232.

Whether they’ll get it also remains to be seen.

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This morning in metals news, the EU is planning to impose heavy duties on steel from several countries, copper is down on gains by the U.S. dollar and June was a good month for U.S. service center  shipments of steel and aluminum.

Participate in MetalMiner’s Budgeting Workshop on July 26 to help set your 2018 metals budget

EU Gets Defensive on Steel

In the world of trade measures, most eyes are on the U.S.’s Section 232 investigations into steel and aluminum imports. However, the U.S. is certainly not the only entity looking to protect its products.

The European Union plans to impose heavy duties on hot-rolled coil steel from Russia, Ukraine, Iran and Brazil, a measure to counter what it sees as unfairly low prices, Reuters reported Wednesday.

According to documents seen by Reuters, the EU plans on imposing duties of up to 33%. Just last month, the EU imposed duties of 35.9% on Chinese steel, according to the report.

Dollar Up, Copper Down

Copper had a strong start to the week, hitting its highest price since early May, but that optimism has started to temper.

Prices of the metals trended downward Wednesday after the U.S. dollar rose, Reuters reported.

The metal struggled to hold onto gains above $6,000, even with good news regarding Chinese demand, Danske Bank analyst Jens Pedersen told Reuters.

Steel, Aluminum Shipments Up in June

U.S. steel shipments were up in June, according to a Metals Service Center Institute report released Tuesday.

Shipments in June 2017 increased by 1.1% from June 2016. In addition, steel product inventories decreased 4.9% from June a year ago.

Free Download: The July 2017 MMI Report

Aluminum shipments were also up compared with the same month last year. Shipments of aluminum products increased by 10.3% from the same month in 2016. Inventories of aluminum products increased 0.2% from June a year ago.

Our July MMI report is in the books, and it paints a more positive picture than our June report.

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

Last month, four sub-indexes posted no movement. This month? Just one.

On top of that, the number of sub-indexes posting upward movement increased from four to six.

It was an especially good month for the Raw Steels MMI, which shot up 4.4%.

The Stainless Steel MMI — stainless is also part of the Section 232 investigation – also rose, while the other 232 investigation subject, aluminum, fell by a point.

The Department of Commerce is expected to announce the results of the Section 232 steel investigation in the near term. Will the Trump administration opt for tariffs, quotas, or a combination of the two, to combat excess capacity from China? Will China make good on talk of cutting production, particularly in light of what was a record June for Chinese steel and aluminum production?

Once the first 232 domino drops, the metal markets will feel the ripple effects — it’s only a matter of when.

Free Sample Report: Our Annual Metal Buying Outlook

You can read about all of the above and much more in our July MMI report, which you can download below.

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This morning in metals news, the Section 232 steel investigation is reportedly in its final stages, better-than-expected data on the Chinese economy buoyed copper prices and a 3-D printing startup got a rich vote of confidence.

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

Section 232 Steel Conclusion: Almost There?

The Section 232 investigations launched by the Trump administration in April have been the talk of the metals world.

While the announcement of the steel investigation was previously expected to happen by the end of June, the administration blew past that self-imposed deadline. Now, however, American Metal Market reports a “key report in the US Commerce Department’s Section 232 investigation into steel imports is nearly complete,” according to a department spokesman.

The announcement would come as tension continues to rise between the U.S. and China. Reuters reported yesterday that China had a record June for steel and aluminum production, which surely won’t do much to dissuade the Trump administration from imposing tariffs or quotas to combat global excess supply from China.

China Data Good For Copper

Reuters reported faster-than-expected Chinese economic growth led to copper prices holding steady Tuesday.

Despite a strong second quarter for the Chinese economy, many analysts predicted a second-half slowdown as the government looks to put the squeeze on credit growth. With that said, Chinese growth exceeded expectations, so perhaps the slowdown will not be as significant as expected.

The next dominoes to drop — the Section 232 investigations — may also have significant ripple effects for not only China, but the global economy.

Big Investment in Metal 3-D Printing

Desktop Metal announced it secured $115 million in funding, according to Fortune, a funding sum that includes backing from a number of big-name investors.

The 3-D printing startup, founded in 2015, aims “to make metal 3D printing accessible for engineering teams,” according to the company’s website.

Free Download: The July 2017 MMI Report

In terms of the regular, everyday consumer, 3-D printing still has a long way to go.

From the industrial side, however, money talks.

In this case, the $115 million investment is saying that some major players believe in the technology and see a bright future in it.

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What is already a global copper deficit could worsen this year with more mines expected to be affected by worker strikes in the coming months.

According to a report by Reuters, South American copper mines are bracing for additional strikes, but polls indicate price movements have already been taken this information into account.

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!

“We will mostly likely see more disruptions later this year … but they are not to be as severe, and the price impacts should be largely priced in,” economist Amy Li at National Australia Bank in Melbourne, told Reuters.

The previous strikes Li is referring to were earlier this year in the world’s largest copper mine at Chile’s Escondida and the No. 2 Grasberg mine in Indonesia.

Reuters also reported copper traded on the London Metal Exchange increased 8% this year, ranking fourth of the six main LME-traded metals.

Copper Prices to Fall?

Despite a perceived shortage in global production of the metal, numerous reports have copper at risk for a price shortfall. The reason? Slow Chinese economic growth, which could take 10% or more off copper prices in the next several months.

“We expect several of the recent drivers of industrial metals — especially stronger economic growth in China — to slow going into the second half of the year,” Seth Rosenfeld, senior research analyst at Jefferies told Fox Business.

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:

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This morning in metals news, China hit record steel and aluminum production numbers in June as the world awaits the Trump administration’s Section 232 investigation results, the copper deficit could deepen amid further strikes and things are looking good for gold on Monday.

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

China Posts Record Steel, Aluminum Outputs in June

Ever since the Trump administration announced its opening of Section 232 investigations into steel and aluminum imports in April, the world has waited to see whether new tariffs or import quotas could be on their way.

The major focus of the investigations has been Chinese excess capacity in the global market, which the administration might strike at via protectionist measures.

The Chinese steel and aluminum industries, meanwhile, showed no signs of slowing down in June.

According to Reuters, China produced record amounts of the metals last month: 73.23 million tons of steel and 2.93 million tons of aluminum.

Copper Deficit Deepens

According to Reuters, the copper deficit is likely to deepen this year as further strikes are expected in South America; however, those strikes have already been priced in, according to the report.

Even so, the strikes are not likely to produce a rise in the copper price, according to a Reuters poll of 26 analysts.

According to the report, LME copper is up 8% on the year.

Gold Looking Up

Gold might be in for some good news during the remainder of 2017.

Free Sample Report: Our Annual Metal Buying Outlook

According to Reuters, gold broke its 200-day moving average and could be in for further gains as a result of a slumping dollar.

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Aluminum prices have been in the spotlight since the beginning of the year.

Since June 2016, aluminum prices have risen. However, for the past three months, they have traded somewhat sideways.

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

Source: MetalMiner analysis of fastmarkets.com data

From a technical perspective, aluminum prices are trading in what is called a wedge formation, with prices fluctuating between the two main blue lines drawn in the chart above. Because the top line descends from a previous uptrend, which characterizes a bull market, this movement could suggest a market top. By observing aluminum prices this month, the market will show us whether aluminum has reached the top of its bull run and will fall, or if it will continue to rise.

If prices fall below the bottom blue line, it will signal to us that a major trend reversal has started. We would also expect to see heavier trading volumes for any shifts in trend. If not, prices will likely continue to move in a sideways direction. This statements works for both the upper and lower limits.

These types of triangle trading patterns show us when to buy on the dips when prices appear in their lower limit. Aluminum has counted two buying dips since prices began to fluctuate in May and June. As prices fluctuate between the triangle limits, a potential third dip could appear if prices retrace to $1,865.

Free Sample Report: Our Annual Metal Buying Outlook

What This Means for Industrial Buyers

Although industrial metals remain bullish, commodities have shown a recent downtrend revealing price weakness.

Buying organizations that need to make aluminum purchases would do well by monitoring aluminum prices closely and taking action if prices break move outside the blue lines, as discussed in detail in our Monthly Metal Buying Outlook.