Articles in Category: Metal Prices

This week in metals, aluminum prices hit a one-month high, even as surplus material in China looked like it would increase as smelters there went back online.

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Even when metals prices were rising across the board in the first quarter, aluminum was the laggard as oversupply still kept investors from buying it and construction demand remained tepid. Thanks to Chinese stimulus that construction demand has shot up and aluminum prices with it.

Aluminum: Smelt All You Want!

Reuters’ Andy Home and our own Stuart Burns both noted that while Beijing is doing everything it can to clean up overproduction in its steel sector — and the resultant pollution that comes with it — there’s no such commitment from the top when it comes to aluminum, mostly because of the state-of-the-art smelters Chinese companies have invested in.

How are Chinese smelters making money? Source: Adobe Stock/Pavel Losevsky

How are Chinese smelters making money? Source: Adobe Stock/Pavel Losevsky.

So, to recap, steel overproduction and pollution is bad but aluminum overproduction and, relatively, smog-free production? China is a-okay with that. What could possibly go wrong?

Rio Repositions

Meanwhile, things have gone significantly awry at Rio Tinto Group. The Anglo-Australian multinational miner shook up its organizational structure this week and head of iron ore commodities Andrew Harding was passed over for the CEO job by copper and coal division leader Jean-Sebastian Jacques. Jacques, a native of France, has only been there since 2011. Harding has been with Rio for 25 years and had been expected to replace departing CEO Sam Walsh this month. Read more

stainless-nickel-L1Nickel ore shipments from the Philippines could be in trouble after a new president’s appointment of an anti-mining presence that could spell disaster for Chinese buyers.

According to a recent report from Bloomberg, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte is prioritizing the nation’s stance on mining by appointing a new head for its environment department. This maneuver has the potential to disrupt supplies to buyers in China.

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

The London Metal Exchange echoed those concerns as nickel closed up nearly half a percent this week, indicating this new government will limit nickel ore exports.

“We might see an imminent crackdown on the Philippines’ small mines,” said Sam Xia, an analyst at China Merchants Futures Ltd. “This will reduce its nickel ore exports, including to China.”

The Philippines is now a key supplier of nickel ore to Asia’s leading economy after Indonesia stopped shipments in January 2014. Meanwhile, China’s nickel ore imports from the Philippines increased to 3 million metric tons this May, its highest point in seven months. That figure accounted for 97% of its total purchases.

Nickel Hits Six-Week High This Week

Our own Raul de Frutos recently highlighted that nickel prices hit a six-week high following a notable recovery from May’s price sell-off.

de Frutos wrote: “The metal benefited from a positive swing in investor sentiment toward commodities in June, stemming from a weaker dollar and the ongoing recovery in oil prices. Nickel has climbed steadily after hitting multiyear lows in February, but the move isn’t big enough to impress the market yet.”

You can find a more in-depth nickel price forecast and outlook in our brand new Monthly Metal Buying Outlook report. Check it out to receive short- and long-term buying strategies with specific price thresholds.

 

 

 

smu-ad-2Our own Lisa Reisman (Executive Editor, MetalMiner) will be live and in-person at the SMU Steel Summit Conference 2016, August 29-31 at the Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta, providing our steel price forecast to those in attendance. The conference will also feature four keynotes, including:

  • Alan Beaulieu (Principal, Institute for Trends Research)
  • Lourenco Goncalves (President and CEO, Cliffs Natural Resources)
  • Roger Newport (CEO, AK Steel)
  • Christopher Oakley (Vice President and Regional Executive, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta)

Other speakers include representatives from Big River Steel, IHS Global Insight, Cargill Metals, McNichols Co., Kloeckner Metals Corporation, Steel Market Development Institute, Steel Dynamics, Precoat Metals and more!

Learn more about the event and register here.

Vietnam and Thailand placed tariffs on Chinese steel exports. China’s Southeast Asian neighbors are joining an international effort to limit its massive steel industry’s influence on world prices led by Europe and the U.S.

Low oil prices forced OPEC’s accounts to dip into deficit for the first time since 1998.

China’s Neighbors Are Sick of Steel Dumping, Too

Countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand are challenging a flood of imports from China. They are retooling their steelmaking technology and imposing tariffs as a construction boom spurs steel demand across Southeast Asia

Free Download: The June 2016 MMI Report

Steel from China is expected to dominate the market for many years, but swelling demand is driving efforts in countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia to build more modern plants, impose tariffs and better compete with China’s vast mills.

Vietnam imposed temporary anti-dumping tariffs ranging from 14% to 23% on steel imports from China and elsewhere in March. It recently slapped additional import duties of up to 25% on more Chinese steel products that will last until October 2019.

Thailand’s commerce ministry is working on the final draft of an anti-dumping law. The government there expects to propose the draft for approval by end-2016, according to a spokeswoman.

OPEC Accounts Fall into Deficit, First Time Since 1998

OPEC’s 2015 oil export revenues slumped 46% to a 10-year low, the group said in a report published on Wednesday, underlining the impact on producers’ income from a collapse in prices.

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Oil prices are at about $50 a barrel, half their mid-2014 level after being pressured by oversupply. OPEC’s decision in November 2014 to not cut supply, hoping a drop in prices would curb supply from competitors, deepened that decline.

The fallout from the U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union is still being felt as lawyers and politicians begin to try to untangle the regulatory mess the eventual move will make and steel imports into the U.S. are up.

Brexit Creates Legal Chaos

Lawyers and lawmakers braced on Friday for uncertainty following the U.K.’s vote to exit the European Union, leaving London to redefine and rewrite its trade and legal ties with the EU, with the U.S. and the rest of the world.

Steel Imports Up in May

Based on preliminary Census Bureau data, the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) reported that the U.S. imported a total of 2,786,000 net tons of steel in May 2016, including 2,077,000 nt of finished steel (up 12.2% and 1.8%, respectively, vs. April final data).

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On the year-to-date through five months of 2016 total and finished steel imports are 12,795,000 and 10,544,000 nt, both down 31% vs. the same period in 2015.

Annualized total and finished steel imports in 2016 are 30.7 and 25.3 million nt, down 21% and 20% respectively vs. 2015. Finished steel import market share was an estimated 23% in May and is estimated at 24% on the year-to-date.

Nickel prices climbed to a six-week high, a nice recovery after May’s price sell-off.

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The metal benefited from a positive swing in investor sentiment toward commodities in June, stemming from a weaker dollar and the ongoing recovery in oil prices. Nickel has climbed steadily after hitting multiyear lows in February, but the move isn’t big enough to impress the market yet.

3M LME Nickel hits 6-week high

Three-month London Metal Exchange nickel hits a six-week high. Source: MetalMiner analysis of FastMarkets.com data.

Chinese Ore Imports Falling

Nickel ore is the essential ingredient for China’s massive nickel pig-iron production sector. Imports for the first four months totaled 4.16 million metric tons, a 38% decline compared to the same period last year. Indonesian imports have been non-existent since the country imposed its exports ban on unprocessed minerals. Although the Philippines has managed to fill part of the gap, it hasn’t been enough. Read more

A recent Reuters article draws an interesting comparison between the Chinese aluminum and steel industries and then goes on to draw some not-so-encouraging conclusions for aluminum. Excess aluminum production there is damaging the prospects of aluminum producers in the rest of the world, purely because of the size of China’s massive aluminum industry.

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Both metals face excess production at home due to rampant overinvestment and slowing domestic demand. Reuters lists a number of similarities between the two industries: China is the world’s largest producer in both markets, accounting for 51.5% of global steel output and 54.4% of global primary aluminum output in April.

Chinese Steel vs. Chinese Aluminum

In both industries, China has been exporting excess production of steel and aluminum in the form of semi-manufactured products, with steel product exports last year totaling 112.4 million metric tons, representing around 14% of the rest of the world’s output and aluminum product exports of 4.2 mmt representing 17% of the rest of the world’s output. In both cases, exports have damaged prospects for producers elsewhere, forcing closures, losses and delaying investments.

Source Reuters

Source: Reuters

In the case of steel, though, the threat of a delay to China’s application for market economy status by the World Trade Organization has forced a more conciliatory response by Beijing in recent discussions, and the promise of large-scale closure of older capacity in China.

Aluminum Overproduction Unabated

How effective this will be remains to be seen but, even so, it is in marked contrast to the position aluminum is in, where Beijing seems unable or unwilling to curtail new investment. As prices on the Shanghai Futures Exchange have risen this year, idled smelters have restarted and new capacity has continued to come on-stream.

Annualized run rates increased by almost 650,000 mt over the course of April and May, Reuters reports, with May’s average daily output of 86,290 mt the highest since November 2015 before prices fell below $1,518 (10,000 yuan).

The other factor apparently effecting Beijing’s attitude is the rapid rise in capacity is coming from new state of the art low cost aluminum smelters in China’s northwestern provinces. Aluminum is not seen as an old-fashioned, state-dominated industry operating polluting plants close to urban areas.

Free Download: The June 2016 MMI Report

China’s new aluminum capacity is cutting-edge, world-class technology and — at current prices at least — is making money. As a result, Reuters concludes capacity is unlikely to be trimmed anytime soon, at least by government intervention. For aluminum producers outside of China, that is not good news, and although recent rises in price to $1,600/mt are better than the $1,450-1,500/mt levels of late last year, it doesn’t offer much upside in the short- to medium-term if China keeps flooding the market with excess semi-finished products.

Reuters_MetalMiner Chart of the Week 062216_550

Source: Reuters

Aluminum reached a one-month high this week as Chinese demand took up more supply at home. As the Shanghai Futures Exchange price has risen, idled smelters has restarted.

Adobe Stock/ Björn Wylezich

Adobe Stock/ Björn Wylezich

The International Lead and Zinc Study Group has released preliminary data on the global market for refined zinc, and found a notable surplus from January to April 2016 with total reported inventories increasing during that time.

The ILZSG also found that an 8.1% reduction in global zinc mine production was mostly due to decreases in India, Australia, Ireland, Peru and the U.S.

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

Meanwhile, refined zinc metal production increases in Namibia and the Republic of Korea were offset by reductions in Japan, India and, once again, the U.S., leading to an overall global reduction of 3.4%.

The ILZSG states: “Global refined metal usage over the first four months of 2016 was at the same level as the corresponding period in 2015 with rises in China and Europe being offset by decreases in Japan, Taiwan (China) and the United States.”

The group concluded that Chinese zinc imports contained in zinc concentrates fell by 20% while refined metal net imports grew by 163%.

Zinc Storage Under Fire

Recently, our own Jeff Yoders covered the lawsuit over zinc storage in his Week-in-Review. Yoders wrote: “Glencore‘s Pacorini warehouse operations business will have to defend the suit as they seemingly falsified documents at the center of the gripes from customers.”

The lawsuit by U.S.-based investors deals with falsified orders and are specifically designed to conceal when and where metal entered Pacorini’s New Orleans warehouse complex.

You can find a more in-depth zinc price forecast and outlook in our brand new Monthly Metal Buying Outlook report. Check it out to receive short- and long-term buying strategies with specific price thresholds.

A federal judge has ruled the federal government cannot set rules for hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” on public lands and, no matter what the U.K. decides in its EU Brexit vote, gold’s bull run is likely over.

Judge Tells Interior Dept. it Can’t Set Fracking Rules

A federal judge in Wyoming made permanent a temporary block of an Interior Department rule setting stricter standards for hydraulic fracturing on public lands, a blow to President Barack Obama’s environmental agenda in the sunset of his administration.

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U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl issued a ruling late Tuesday invalidating the regulation, saying the Interior Department lacked the authority to issue it. The same judge last year issued a preliminary injunction blocking the rule until he made a final decision.

The rule, issued by department’s Bureau of Land Management in March 2015, applies to oil and gas drilling on federal lands, which produce 11% of the natural gas consumed in the U.S. and 5% of the oil, according to government data. The government can appeal the ruling.

Brexit Vote Likely to End Gold’s Run

No matter if the U.K. votes to stay in the European Union or leave, Gold’s sharp gains on uncertainty over its membership are likely to come to an end after Thursday’s referendum.

Free Download: The June 2016 MMI Report

Prices hit their highest since August 2014 last week as the $5-trillion a year gold market rose with other “safe” assets, such as German bunds, the Swiss franc and Japan’s yen.