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Articles on: Metal Prices

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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:

A magnifying glass is on steel, particularly Chinese steel.

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

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Section 232 steel and stainless steel investigation appears to be under the watchful eye of European leaders.

In that vein, newly released Chinese data has not gone unnoticed.

Read more

A Department of Commerce hearing is underway Thursday morning on the subject of the Section 232 investigation into aluminum imports. qingwa/Adobe Stock

This morning in metals news, the Department of Commerce’s Section 232 hearing on aluminum is in progress this morning, the LME is expected to cut its trading fees and London copper rose Thursday as a result of data indicating a global supply deficit.

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

Section 232 Hearing on Aluminum Underway This Morning

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s hearing regarding its ongoing Section 232 investigation into aluminum imports started at 8 a.m. CDT Thursday.

Those interested in watching can tune into the live streams on the Department of Commerce’s Facebook or YouTube pages. After a brief break, the hearing is reconvening as of 9:59 a.m. CDT and is scheduled to continue until just after 11 a.m. CDT.

As mentioned earlier this morning, Chinese overcapacity continues to be the primary talking point.

The hearing started with testimony from: Kentucky State Rep. Jim Gooch Jr.; Li Xie, director of Export Division One, People’s Republic of China, Ministry of Commerce; Talal M. Al Kaissi, representative from the Trade & Commercial Office from the Embassy of the U.A.E.; Lurii Stegnii, deputy trade representative from the Trade Representation of the Russian Federation in the United States; and Gerd Gotz, director general of European Aluminum.

Gooch Jr.’s state is home to Century Aluminum, which operates two smelters in the Bluegrass State (one in Hawesville, the other in Sebree).

LME Planning to Cut Trading Fees

The LME is planning on cutting its trading fees in the hopes of boosting volumes, Reuters reported Thursday.

According to the report, a 35% fee hike in January 2015 is a major reason cited by those in the industry to explain declining LME volumes.

Overall volumes in the five months to the end of May this year fell more than 5% from the same five-month period in 2016, according to the article.

LME Copper Ticks Up

LME copper rose Thursday, driven by data showing a global supply deficit, according to Reuters.

According to the data, the global world refined copper market showed a deficit of 5,000 tons in March, Reuters reported. That figure stands in stark contrast with the 102,000-ton surplus reported for February.

Free Download: The June 2017 MMI Report

Meanwhile, three-month LME copper was down 0.6%, according to Reuters.

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Two words are dominating the U.S. aluminum industry’s focus as it awaits the Department of Commerce’s Section 232 investigation findings relating to aluminum (and steel) imports: Chinese overcapacity.

Cheap Chinese imports, subsidized by the Chinese government, U.S. producers argue, have adversely affected U.S. producers — leading to job losses and closures of smelters.

Of course, Chinese overcapacity is not a new target — former President Barack Obama filed a complaint to the World Trade Organization in January regarding “artificially cheap loans” propping up Chinese producers and, consequently, undercutting U.S. producers.

Ahead of tomorrow morning’s scheduled Department of Commerce hearing (9 a.m., Eastern Time) on the ongoing Section 232 investigation into aluminum imports, senior-level executives in the U.S. aluminum industry on Wednesday offered a preview of the testimony they will deliver in Washington D.C.

Speaking at the conference Wednesday were: Garney B. Scott, president of Scepter, Inc. and chairman of The Aluminum Association; Marco Palmieri, president of Novelis North America, Heidi Brock, president and CEO, of The Aluminum Association; and John Herrmannpartner at Kelley Drye & Warren.

“The past two or three years have been among the most challenging in the industry’s history,” Scott told reporters. Scott said U.S. producers have competed on the global marketplace for decades, but cannot compete with China and “more than a decade of government subsidies that have led to irrational, non-market incentives for companies to produce metal the world does not need,” adding eight U.S. smelters have closed since 2014 as a result.

The executives were united in their expressed hopes for the outcome of the Section 232 investigation.

“What we want is a negotiated government-to-government agreement that has a concrete and enforceable plan to address Chinese aluminum overcapacity,” Brock said.

Brock added that China is the sole focus of the U.S. aluminum industry’s overcapacity concerns. Furthermore, she said it is important that any trade policy readjustments do not adversely affect countries, like Canada and those in the European Union, who are “playing by the rules.”

“Canada and countries that play by the rules and have not contributed to overcapacity … we want to make sure there are not unintended consequences on the supply chain,” she said.

In a show of solidarity, The Aluminum Association, the Aluminum Association of Canada and European Aluminium released a joint statement Tuesday, urging governments of the G20 to tackle global aluminum overcapacity.

“We acknowledge the issue of Chinese aluminum excess capacity as the root cause of the challenges faced by the aluminium industries in North America and in Europe,” the release said. “Overcapacity encourages unfair trading practices and displacement of domestic production, which cause global imbalances in the aluminium industry and distort international trade flows.”

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

In terms of aluminum rolling, Palmieri told reporters Chinese capacity amounts to 15 million tons per year, while its consumption is approximately 9 million tons per year, leaving an excess of 6 million tons — greater than the 5 million ton capacity of the U.S. and Canadian markets.

Prepared statements provided and intended to be delivered as testimony during tomorrow’s hearing further drove home the focus on Chinese overcapacity.

Palmieri, the president of Novelis North America, wrote the investigation is “timely and vital to the future of the domestic aluminum industry,” adding that unfairly priced Chinese aluminum has already forced the company to “exit some product lines.”

“We also have reason to believe that Chinese producers will increase production of automotive aluminum capacity within the next few years,” Palmieri writes. “If this increased capacity of aluminum were permitted to be exported to the U.S. at subsidized and unfair prices, Novelis could be forced to slash production, lay off employees, and shutter entire facilities if those facilities are not able to deliver reasonable rates of return.”

Commerce Department Hearing Gives Aluminum Industry Chance to Express Concerns

What ultimately comes out of the investigation remains to be seen (including which policy recommendations Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross provides at the investigation’s conclusion will be accepted as given to President Donald Trump, which is in accordance with his authority under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act).

Free Download: The June 2017 MMI Report

Under Section 232, the Secretary of Commerce must conclude the investigation and deliver findings within 270 days of the investigation’s commencement. The investigations into the national-security threats posed by aluminum and steel imports were announced in April.

Whatever happens, U.S. aluminum industry figures across the supply chain will have the chance to make their concerns heard.

Thursday morning’s hearing can be live-streamed on YouTube and Facebook.

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This morning in metals news, the biggest aluminum smelter in China is cutting back on outdated capacity, New York State’s governor and legislative leaders announced a “Buy American” deal for state purchases of iron and steel, and the European Union’s trade commissioner says the European bloc “will have to respond” if President Donald Trump imposes trade tariffs on steel imports from China, the EU and other nations.

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

China Targets Aluminum Capacity

China Hongqiao Group Ltd. will be cutting back on outdated aluminum capacity, Bloomberg reported.

The cutback comes at the same time as the Chinese government focuses on illegal production, according to the report.

Chinese overcapacity is a main talking point for metals producers around the world, especially in the U.S. A Department of Commerce hearing on the government’s Section 232 investigation of aluminum imports is scheduled for 9 a.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, June 22.

Analysts expect further Chinese aluminum production cutbacks throughout the year.

N.Y. Pledges to ‘Buy American’

As the U.S. aluminum and steel industries await the Department of Commerce’s Section 232 investigation findings, New York politicians agreed on a proposal for buying American iron and steel.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other state leaders announced a “Buy American” agreement, which calls for the use of American iron and steel for some state road and bridge projects, Newsday reported.

According to the report, the proposal gives preference to American producers for iron and steel contracts worth more than $1 million.

Although the proposal is a scaled-down version of the initial bill — the result of objections from neighboring Canada — the bill fits well in a climate dominated by talk about the potential outcomes and ramifications of the Section 232 investigation.

European Union Strikes Back?

As the U.S. Department of Commerce gets set to announce the findings and recommendations of its Section 232 investigations, trading partners abroad are keeping tabs on the process.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said the EU “will need to respond” if President Donald Trump places tariffs on steel from the EU (and other nations), POLITICO reported.

Free Download: The June 2017 MMI Report

She mentioned Chinese overcapacity and market distortions as sources of the U.S.’s concerns about steel imports. Even if tariffs applied to Chinese steel don’t directly affect EU nations, Malmström said they will still be hit “very hard.”

In an increasingly interconnected world, rarely does a trade policy targeting one country — whether formally or in spirit — only affect that country. As the U.S. is expected to take aim at China with any trade policy readjustments that come as a result of the Section 232 investigation, other nations could very well be affected.

The findings of the 232 investigation are expected to be announced in the near future. Thursday morning’s Department of Commerce hearing on aluminum should shed additional light on the government’s thinking.

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This morning in metals news: copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) is hanging steady, zinc pulled back after hitting a two-week high and General Electric (GE) announced plans to build the world’s largest laser-based powder bed metal 3-D printer.

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

No Movement for Copper

A stronger U.S. dollar put a cap on gains for LME copper, as the metal’s price didn’t show much movement Tuesday, Reuters reported.

The U.S. dollar hit a three-week high against the yen after a Federal Reserve official said inflation should rise alongside wages — “reinforcing expectations for the Fed to keep raising interest rates,” according to Reuters.

Zinc Falls After Two-Week Peak

Zinc prices have been steadily climbing of late, with the metal hitting a two-week high yesterday. That has pulled back a bit, partly as a result of questions about Chinese demand, Reuters reported.

“You’ve got some news with a bullish tone, so that’s supporting the market, but I don’t know how sustainable this will all be,” Gianclaudio Torlizzi, partner at the T-Commodity consultancy, told Reuters.

LME zinc fell by 0.4%, according to the report.

GE Makes 3-D Printer Announcement

Say hello to ATLAS.

That’s the name of the new metal 3-D printer GE announced it is building, a printer that will be the world’s largest laser-based power bed metal 3-D printer.

GE made the announcement at the Paris Air Show, according to 3D Printing Industry.

Free Download: The June 2017 MMI Report

Per 3D Printing Industry, the printer has a build volume of 1 meter cubed.

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:

quka/Adobe Stock

This morning in metals news, base metals got off to a solid start this week, Carpenter Technology Corporation enters into a supply agreement with a company that produces 3-D printing systems and zinc hits a two-week high.

Markets Start Monday with Strong Base

It was a good start to the week for base metals on the London Metal Exchange (LME).

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

Prices closed Friday with an average increase of 0.4%, according to FastMarkets. Those metals kept the momentum rolling into this week (particularly lead, zinc and nickel).

LME prices increased by an average of 0.5%, with three-month copper prices up 0.3% and lead prices up 1%, according to FastMarkets.

Carpenter, Desktop Metal Enter Supply Relationship

Desktop Metal, Inc., which produces end-to-end metal 3-D printing systems, has entered into a supply relationship with Carpenter Technology Corporation, according to a NASDAQ release.

Carpenter Technology Corporation is a producer and distributor of premium specialty alloys, including titanium alloys, nickel and cobalt based superalloys, stainless steels, alloy steels and tool steels. Carpenter’s powder metals will be utilized in Desktop’s premium materials cartridges, according to the release.

The move is just another signal of the ongoing growth of the 3D-printing market and the method’s uses in a variety of applications.

Zinc Hits Two-Week High

Rather than start the week Monday sluggishly, zinc prices have ticked upward, reaching a two-week high, according to Reuters.

The rising price was driven by expectation of higher demand from steelmakers and LME inventories of zinc hitting nine-year lows, according to the Reuters report.

Free Download: The June 2017 MMI Report

London zinc prices rose 0.9%, to their highest price since June 2.

Meanwhile, mine closures led to China’s lowest output in more than two years. Chinese imports increased by by 21 percent in April, Reuters reported.

Similar to other base metals, tin prices have started a gradual decline, starting from the beginning of June.

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

A market analysis of tin prices and trading volumes suggests a more bearish scenario for tin.

The chart below shows both a sharp drop in tin prices accompanied by heavier selling volume, also known as a “selling climax,” and may be perceived as a signal of a bearish market to follow.  

Source: Fast Markets

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.  

Chinese VAT removal could lead to price convergence

Tin prices may also be influenced by the approval of a new Chinese policy that will directly impact  the largest tin-producing company in China, Yunnan Tin Company.

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.

According to ITRI, by removing the VAT rebate scheme, the new policy will likely cause exports to increase and prices to rebalance between the London Metal Exchange (LME) and China.  In other words, the two prices will likely converge — China’s may come up and the LME price may fall.

We believe tin prices will move close to support levels — and may eventually fall below this limit.

Free Download: The June 2017 MMI Report

Considering the current situation and the sideways trend of commodities, tin should be analyzed closely this month.

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