MetalMiner Prices

Aluminum Prices

View quotes and charts of the North American Aluminum Index and current pricing for 3003-H14 Sheet

Carbon Steel Prices

View quotes and charts of the North American Carbon Steel Index and current pricing for A36 Plate, 1008 Sheet, and 1011 Sheet

Nickel Alloy Prices

View quotes and charts of the North American Nickel Alloy Index and current pricing for 625 Sheet

Stainless Steel Prices

View quotes and charts of the North American Stainless Steel Index and current pricing for 304 Sheet, and 430 Sheet

Titanium Prices

View quotes and charts of the North American Titanium Index and current pricing for TI-6-4 Bar
Articles on: Metal Prices

AdobeStock/vvoe

The International Lead and Zinc Study Group released its Spring 2017 meetings/forecasts report, which found global demand for refined zinc metal is expected to increase 2.6% to 14.30 million tons this 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 ILZSG report stated: “There has been little change in European zinc demand over the past five years and further stability is anticipated in 2017 with increases in Belgium, Italy and the Russian Federation being partially offset by a decline in France resulting in an overall rise for the region of a modest 0.7%.”

Furthermore, the ILZSG report found that a significant decrease in apparent demand in the United States last year was most likely influenced “by a drawdown in unreported stocks,” and it’s expected that apparent usage will recover this year to a level similar to what was seen in 2015.

Zinc Supply to Increase with Demand

After experiencing a decline of 5.5% last year, worldwide zinc mine production is expected to grow 6.7% to 13.70 million tons this year. Read more

The U.S. dollar got a boost after the presidential election as markets were encouraged by prospects of lower taxes, fiscal stimulus and deregulation that would accelerate growth of the American economy.

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

But this month, the dollar has fallen sharply, hitting a seven-month low. A weaker dollar gave some relief to depressing commodity markets.

Commodity index (in black) rises as Dollar index (in green) falls. Source: MetalMiner analysis of stockcharts.com

Why then is the dollar losing its luster now?

First, the dollar had steadily risen for three consecutive months. It’s not uncommon to see profit-taking after such an increase. But there are also some fundamental reasons behind this sell-off.

Selling intensified after the recent political turmoil around President Donald Trump as investors worry over political stability in the U.S. Investors also worry that under these political turbulences, the Trump administration will struggle to implement the pro-growth initiatives that markets had taken for granted. Finally, the euro appreciated against the dollar as political risks in Europe eased following the French elections.

Can This Decline Be Reversed?

US Dollar Index could bounce back up soon. Source: MetalMiner analysis of stockcharts.com data

Read more

The ongoing turmoil over Donald Trump has increased investors’ worries over political stability in the U.S. In addition, investors worry that under these political turbulences, the Trump administration will struggle to implement pro-growth initiatives.

The dollar is one asset that was affected by the news, falling to a 6-month low. Investors have been selling dollars and buying euros as political risks rise in the U.S. and, following the French elections, fall in Europe.

Two-Month Trial: Metal Buying Outlook

Usually, a falling dollar would give a boost to industrial metal prices, but that wasn’t the case here. Precious metals like gold did benefit from a falling dollar, but it didn’t prevent base metals from declining. This is because investors are now focused on what looks like a slow down in China.

Investors were disappointed when China’s Caixin Manufacturing PMI came at 50.3 in April, the lowest reading since September 2016. In addition, as Beijing talks about curbing credit, investors have come to realize that lower funding for the construction of infrastructure projects will hurt demand for industrial metals.

Just about two weeks ago we noticed that commodity markets were getting in trouble. As time goes on, that weakness is spreading out into industrial metals. Some specific metals are holding their value better than others due to their specific supply narrative, but overall we would expect them to move in tandem, as they always do. Here are some charts suggesting that the bull cycle in industrial metals could be ending:

Nickel falls to a 10-month low. Source: MetalMiner analysis of fastmarkets.com data

Read more

Macro photo of a piece of lead ore

The International Lead and Zinc Study Group released its Spring 2017 Meetings/Forecasts, which found that global demand for refined lead metal will increase 2.3% this year to 11.39 million tons.

The main reason? Further development in Chinese usage, which is projected to grow 4.3%.

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 ILZSG report states: “After increasing by a robust 9.8% in 2016, usage of lead metal in Europe is expected to remain unchanged in 2017. A stable outlook is also foreseen in Japan and the Republic of Korea. In both India and the United States modest growth of 1.5% is predicted.”

Lead Supply Update

Furthermore, the ILZSG report states that global lead mine production is projected to increase 4.3% to 4.92 million tons this year, due in part to growth in China and increases in Canada, Mexico, India, Greece and Kazakhstan. Read more

As I pointed out two weeks ago, U.S. steel prices had no choice but to decline as the spread between U.S. and international prices had widened to unsustainable levels.

Two-Month Trial: Metal Buying Outlook

That’s exactly what I’ve seen so far in May, and I suspect that the recent price decline is just the beginning of a deeper correction that could easily extend to the rest of the second quarter.

U.S. hot-rolled coil prices fall in May. Source: MetalMiner IndX

Hot-rolled prices have fallen around 5% since they peaked in April. Meanwhile, steel prices in China have started to stabilize after a slump during March/April. As the chart below shows, the price spread appears to have peaked near the same levels as it did last summer. U.S. steel prices will likely continue to fall, bringing this price arbitrage down.

Hot rolled coil price spread US vs China. Source: MetalMiner IndX

U.S. Steel Imports Hit a Two-Year High

Although the U.S. doesn’t import steel directly from China, Chinese steel prices set the floor for international prices. Therefore, when China’s steel prices fall, imports become more appealing to U.S. buyers. That’s exactly what’s happening now. In March, U.S. steel imports rose 31% year-over-year, hitting the highest level since May 2015. Read more

Tin supply is tight on the London Metal Exchange, but is this an isolated issue or just one example of a more far-reaching dilemma?

Writing for Reuters, Andy Home cites LME tin at its lowest level in 20 years, but it’s important to look closer as any comparison to two decades in the past is null and void as the global metals market and LME’s place in it are so different now.

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!

Home writes: “Unsurprisingly, low inventory is once again generating tightness across short-dated time-spreads, extending a pattern that has been running for a couple of years now.”

He adds that tin price is underperforming as well, currently trading just under $20,000 per ton. This is a 5% decrease when compared to the start of the year, placing it with nickel as the worst performer among significant LME metals.

However, Home writes that there is now more tin inventory in Shanghai Futures Exchange warehouses than in the LME system. Read more

Manufacturing activity in the U.S. continues to be strong, as ISM’s PMI reported expansion in April for the 95th straight month.

Economic growth in China is seemingly gangbusters — last quarter, the country’s annual GDP growth rate clocked in at 6.9%, its highest rate since Q3 2015.

And, the U.S. dollar recently fell to a five-year low — the dollar usually experiences an inverse relationship with commodity prices, but has bucked that trend over the last month.

But most industrial metal prices have fallen off — so what gives?

MetalMiner just released the May 2017 edition of our Monthly MMI Report, in which we analyze 10 baskets of metals by metal vertical and end-use industries — tracing a line through steel, grain-oriented electrical steel (GOES), stainless, base metals (aluminum, copper, nickel), and rare earths, to the automotive, renewables and construction sectors.

Within the report, we give metal buyers more insight into what’s happening with these price trends, and what’s going on behind the scenes.

Download the free report by filling out the form below! *Members: Skip the form and log in to grab the free PDF! Please note: Since we securely host our reports, the URL link will be live for 60 seconds upon downloading – so please save the PDF to your files!














captcha

For full access to this MetalMiner membership content:
Log In |

Copper prices took a hit in May because of a surge in LME inventories. Or… was it because of that?

I’ve pointed out this before, but people continue to talk about copper stocks to explain price movements. LME inventories rose in May by 64,000 tons, or 25%, at the same time that prices fell. But that’s simply a coincidence.

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

Most of the time, inventory inflows and outflows can simply happen because traders move metal from one destination to another to profit from price arbitrages. Indeed, in November copper prices climbed 20% while LME stocks rose by more than 90,000 tons. I would argue that inventory levels have no predictability on price trends. But then what drove copper prices down?

China to Halt Credit Growth

China is putting efforts on halting risky lending and rising borrowing costs in order to limit credit growth. Interest rates in China have risen to the highest level in two years while the country’s tough talks on curbing credit are expected to put the brakes on credit growth.

As I wrote last week, “the noticeable tightening in Chinese monetary policy is bad news for property markets in China. The country has also pledged to halt risky local funding on the construction of infrastructure projects. Investors know that this will hurt demand for commodities and industrial metals.” Read more

Set of copper pipes of different diameter lying in one heap

Copper on the Shanghai market traded lower this week with investors choosing equities and oil, an area where a domestic rally was overflowing into Asian markets.

According to a report from Reuters, three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange did find some support, trading 1.1% higher, which offset losses from the previous session.

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!

However, the Reuters report also stated that LME copper stayed close to the four-month lows reached earlier this week as the market suffered from weak demand stemming from China and falling imports.

The most popular copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange slipped to $6,558 a ton, Reuters reported, a decline of 0.71%.

Copper Bears Take Over

Just this week our own Raul de Frutos wrote of the commodity outlook shifting for copper buyers, as well as buyers of aluminum, steel and tin, and that the bears are taking over:

de Frutos wrote: “About a month ago I noted that while industrial metals were on the rise, commodities were range-bound, a sign of sluggish global demand. As I had written, ‘a healthy bull market in base metals should be accompanied by a bull market in other commodity markets.’ Commodities not only have struggled to make new headway but in the past few days they weakened significantly. Recent moves in China have caused a significant shift of sentiment in financial markets.”

de Frutos cited several issues, including oil prices taking a dip and China curbing its credit, to signal that the bull market for commodities might be coming to an end.

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:

Aluminum Rod

Goldman Sachs is bullish on aluminum, projecting it to rise following China’s supply-side reforms.

According to a recent report from CNBC, Goldman expects aluminum prices to hit the $2,000 per metric ton point in six months and $2,100 per ton in a 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!

Year-to-date, aluminum prices have outperformed other industrial metals, climbing roughly 15% compared to steel and 3% compared to copper, the news source stated.

“In our view, this strong performance has reflected an increase in the potential for aluminum to be the next target of supply-side reform in China, a tightening ex-China balance, and rising costs of production,” wrote the bank’s analysts. “Further, global political developments may also be supportive of capacity and production cuts, given the two leaders of the U.S. and China launched a 100-day (trade) plan on April 7. These developments support our existing view that aluminum is the next target for supply-side reform in China,” they added. Read more