Articles in Category: Precious Metals

Here’s What Happened

  • MetalMiner’s Global Precious MMI, tracking a basket of precious metals from across the globe, tore itself away from a one-month downward trend to rise 4.7% for a reading of 89. That value was up from 85 at the beginning of August.
  • Palladium continues its steady yet undeniable march upward. The platinum-group metal (PGM) crushed it with yet another recent high, ending up above the $900 per ounce level as of Sept. 1. As of this writing, palladium is holding on to that increase, still hovering near that level.
  • Platinum is no slouch either, creeping upward even closer to its recent high of March 2017, when it landed above $1,000 per ounce.
  • The U.S. gold price broke — and held above — the $1,300 per ounce threshold at the beginning of the month for the first time since October 2016.

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What’s Going On in the Background?

  • Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you would’ve been hard-pressed to miss the hurricane and tropical storm news of the past couple weeks. No sooner did Hurricane Harvey slam into the Texas Gulf Coast region, Hurricane Irma made her way up into the center of Florida soon after.
  • Aside from natural disasters, other price drivers, such as political uncertainty surrounding North Korea and the U.S. Congress’ tussle over how to deal with the debt ceiling — and potential government shutdown — certainly have taken their toll on investor sentiment.

What Metal Buyers Should Look Out For

  • How will the recent storm disasters affect precious metals prices? It could hit gold and silver refiners especially hard, as South Florida is home to one of the biggest precious refiners in the country and is also a hub for “assaying, refining, logistics and financing operations,” according to this article citing, ultimately, reporting done by the Miami Herald. If you’re in the market for those two metals, keeping an eye on the short-to-medium term aftermath of Hurricane Irma looks to be crucial.
  • As for the PGMs, platinum prices may turn around to the downside soon, if the recent outlook of the World Platinum Investment Council (WPIC) is to be believed. The WPIC foresees a stalling of supply out of South Africa for the balance of 2017, while demand will equally stall, according to the council. In terms of palladium’s future, analysts at Commerzbank told DigitalLook “the metal used by the auto industry in emissions-controlling catalytic converters was benefiting from strong Chinese car sales data but that sales there are likely to weaken.”
  • Of course, vehicle replacement in Texas and Florida post-hurricanes could do their part to support platinum and palladium prices. Be sure to check out how MetalMiner’s Automotive MMI fared.

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Hurricane Harvey left a trail of destruction throughout southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana. Those impacted regions have a long road to recovery.

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But not long after Harvey, Hurricane Irma made landfall in the continental United States, compounding the havoc wreaked by Harvey.

According to Dr. Joel N. Myers, founder, president and chairman of AccuWeather, Irma will prove to have been the worst hurricane to hit Florida since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Millions of Floridians lost power because of Irma. According to the Department of Energy, there were 4,864,148 customer outages in Florida, or 49% of the state, as of Tuesday morning. That figure is down from the 6,117,024 reported customer outages as of Monday afternoon — or a whopping 59% of the state.

The storms, one after the other, marked the first time in 166 years of weather records that two Atlantic Category 4 hurricanes made landfall in the United States in the same year.

Like Harvey, the extent of Irma’s damages will become clear over time, but there will certainly be significant damages to homes and other properties, and even vehicles. Enki Research estimated damages may reach $49 billion.

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Gold prices rallied during the first three months of 2017 on the heels of the presidential election and a weaker U.S. dollar.

However, gold prices showed some weakness during March and have traded sideways since then, with an average price of $1,250/ounce.

Source: MetalMiner analysis of FastMarkets

Gold prices have not been able to surpass the resistance level of $1,300/ounce, which would ensure the metal retain its bull market status.

In July, however, gold prices increased together with other base metals and commodities.

The U.S. Dollar

The U.S. Dollar weakness in 2017. Source: MetalMiner analysis of TradingEconomics

Gold prices received a lift from a weaker U.S. dollar.

A bearish U.S. dollar contributes to rising gold prices. The U.S. dollar is currently at its lowest level in a year and is close to its support level.

Source: MetalMiner analysis of TradingEconomics

The U.S. dollar could rebound from this support level and recover — or it may continue its sharp downtrend and show weakness. Gold prices could remain supported by a weaker dollar.

Stock markets

The S&P 500 has continued its uptrend since 2016. The index has reached an all-time high. The rising stock market may have kept a lid on gold prices this year.

However, the increase in stock markets has shown low volatility.

Low volatility periods (calm periods) are commonly followed by high volatility periods (storm periods).

We may be in the calm before the storm.

S&P 500. Source: MetalMiner analysis of TradingEconomics

What this means for metal buyers

Gold prices have lost steam and have traded sideways since March (with the exception of July’s bullish move).

A stronger U.S. dollar could drive gold prices down again. The opposite also remains a real possibility.

Buying organizations may want to watch the U.S. dollar closely.

Here’s What Happened

  • MetalMiner’s Global Precious MMI rose 2.4% to a value of 85, breaking into a new high for 2017.
  • Our sub-index tracking gold, silver, platinum and palladium prices from around the globe last hit this level in October 2016, when it reached a value of 86.
  • That makes two straight Augusts (2016 and 2017) of strong performance for precious metals. After a lackadaisical second half of 2015 and first half of 2016, the Global Precious MMI hit a scorching 89 in August 2016 — the index’s highest peak since February 2015.

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What’s Going On in the Background?

  • Since we tend to keep a closer eye on the platinum group metals (PGMs) due to their automotive applications, the U.S. platinum price tracked by the MetalMiner IndX ticked back up 2.3%, while the U.S. palladium price continued steamrolling, rising 3.4% on the month.
  • These PGM prices increases, in addition to marginal upticks for gold and silver in the U.S., are the main drivers of the index’s gain.
  • As we reported in June, platinum companies continue to battle for profitability — one such firm being South Africa’s Lonmin. After the company reopened shafts and expanded its biggest operation a couple months ago, it’s now planning to sell excess processing capacity “of up to 500,000 platinum ounces per year, to maximize cash from processing operations and preserve cash,” according to Reuters. The tough economic environment in South Africa, as well as inflationary pressures on platinum mining in general, are to blame.

What Metal Buyers Should Look Out For

  • Certainly keep an eye on the global automotive sector, which has been motoring along lately in China especially, as the longer-term driver (HA!) here.
  • Certain rosy outlooks from firms such as Research and Markets indicate a bullishness that refuses to let up on the gas (it’s August, y’all, we’re getting those all out of our system before the fall revs up — see?!). According to my colleague Fouad Egbaria’s coverage, “advances in automobile technology and pharmaceutical applications will see a rise in demand for this subset of metals, according to the research report.”
  • The dog days of summer have shown life with a last gasp, perhaps setting the stage for a continued rise into autumn, especially if political turmoil gets any worse and any looming stock market corrections set the tone.

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For India, a recent development may turn its minerals industry on its head.

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Scientists from the Geological Survey of India (GSI), a department under the Ministry of Mines, recently discovered millions of tons of precious stones and minerals under the deep waters that surround peninsular India.

What’s more, the discovery lies within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which means India will benefit the most.

It was sometime in 2014 that the scientists found the huge presence of marine resources off the Indian coast, extending till the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and around Lakshadweep. The amount of lime mud, phosphate-rich and calcareous sediments, hydrocarbons, metalliferous deposits and micronodules called for a more extensive exploration, and that’s precisely what the GSI team did.

After three years of exploration, they hit paydirt.

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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.

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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.

Here’s What Happened

    • MetalMiner’s Global Precious MMI took a bit of a dip this month, coming down 1.1% to 83.
    • The sub-index’s value held at 84 in June and May, but on balance, the price drops within the overall basket of metals couldn’t hold the ship steady into this post-Independence Day summer lull.
    • While our U.S. platinum bar price got very close to its 2017 start-of-the-month low (which it hit in January; more on platinum below), U.S. palladium rose 3.8% month-on-month to record its highest price in 34 months — nearly a 3-year high.

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

What’s Going On in the Background?

  • Diesel goin’ down? Due to negative sentiment after Dieselgate, as MetalMiner’s Editor at Large Stuart Burns pointed out recently, sales of diesel vehicles in some parts of Europe have taken a dive in the past few months over concerns that “authorities will raise costs or otherwise make living with diesel engines a less attractive proposition for owners.” Overall, total car sales have dropped in some European markets, including the U.K. — but in the spots where they haven’t, gas-powered vehicles have been winning over diesel. In short, not awesome for platinum prices.
  • BEVs are not the panacea. Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) could be the ticket … except that the World Platinum Investment Council forecasts BEVs to make up no more than 5% of the market by 2025, so that wouldn’t work either.
  • Of course, investor demand, jewelry demand and other industrial sectors, such as chemical, all play into it. But “platinum’s fortunes will in part ride on the coattails of the auto industry’s ability to re-establish the diesel engine as an environmentally acceptable propulsion unit,” according to Burns.
  • Meanwhile, as my colleague Fouad Egbaria reported yesterday, gold is now trading on the LME.

What Metal Buyers Should Look Out For

  • The divergence between platinum and palladium prices of late certainly merits attention, and perhaps may drive industrial manufacturers to broader substitution efforts — but that could be a stretch. According to analysts cited by the Financial Times (paywall), “the divergence reflects a number of factors, including speculative demand and several years of production deficits that have eroded stockpiles and reduced available supplies.” The article goes on to say that longer term, “with the increasing popularity of electric vehicles, analysts say this year’s turbocharged run for palladium could be a last hurrah for the material, which has few industrial uses outside of the car industry.”
  • Last month, we wrote that “while we’re unsure of when prices will swing back up, mainly because output cuts in South Africa and elsewhere have seemingly not helped, it may be hard to discount current windows for smaller spot buys.” Fortunately for platinum spot-buyers, this still holds true.

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Indians’ love of gold is a story with which many around the globe are familiar.

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Just how deep is this love? A recent research report by one of India’s well-known equities firms said India had consumed — hold your breath — around $300 billion worth of gold in just the last decade.

The analysis by Kotak Institutional Equities said gold prices had gone up by 300% between FY 2008 and FY 2017. But the love story has not been the same in the last five financial years (FY 2013-17), when only half the gold consumption of the past decade was recorded, not to mention virtually flat gold prices.

It’s no wonder that under the new Goods and Services Tax (GST) implemented as of July 1, gold, according to some, has been given special treatment. The tax has been kept at 3%, nowhere near the 18% suggested by some experts.

GST is a uniform tax across India, doing away with almost all other forms of taxes for businesses. So high is this precious metal on an average Indian’s shopping list that even the 3% tax, up from the current 1.2%, has raised the hackles of buyers. Some have even suggested that the “high” GST (in reality, just 1.8% more) would once again lead to the smuggling of gold into the country.

A report by news agency Reuters, for example, quoted named and unnamed gold traders and buyers as saying smaller gold shops could be more inclined to sell without receipts, potentially hitting sales.

Indians have been familiar with the “black” gold economy.

Except for certain periods, gold smuggling has always been a part and parcel of India. In 2013, for example, when the government raised import duties on the metal to 10%, smuggling went up. The World Gold Council (WGC) estimated that smuggling networks had imported up to 120 tons of gold into India last year.

The Kotak Institutional Equities report opined that it was “unhappy” with the special treatment given to gold vis-à-vis GST. India’s policy on inflation management achieved remarkable success, which should reduce gold’s function as a “store of value,” the report said.

Gold Demand on the Rise?

A WGC report in June highlighted the potential impact of the GST on India’s gold demand. It said the new tax could have a negative impact in the short term as the industry went through a period of adjustment, but the net impact in the long term was likely to be positive. The WGC expected India’s demand for gold to be 650–750 tons in 2017 and predicted it will rise to 850–950 tons by 2020.

According to another article in the Mint newspaper, analysis of household survey data seemed to suggest that one reason why regional governments in India may have lobbied for a low tax rate on gold was because gold purchases were not exclusive to the rich.

Even though the rich tend to buy more of it, possession of gold was a universal phenomenon across income classes, according to the Household Survey on India’s Citizen Environment & Consumer Economy (ICE 360° survey) conducted by the independent not-for-profit organization, People Research on India’s Consumer Economy, which was partly financed by the WGC.

The report found that one in every two households in India had purchased gold in the last five years. The survey also revealed of 61,000 households polled in 2016, 87% of households owned some amount of gold in the country.

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Reports of platinum’s demise have been much exaggerated — or so this month’s report from the World Platinum Investment Council (WPIC) would argue.

Sales of diesel vehicles in some parts of Europe have taken a beating in recent months over concerns that authorities will raise costs or otherwise make living with diesel engines a less attractive proposition for owners, due to negative sentiment post-Dieselgate. Total car sales have dropped in some European markets, including the U.K.. However, where sales have held up there’s been a definite swing to gasoline vehicles rather than diesel.

The markets have read this trend as meaning platinum demand will fall — but maybe not surprisingly, the WPIC is taking a more optimistic view.

Regardless of buyers’ short-term preferences, the WPIC says the auto industry has an overarching challenge in the years ahead that will support platinum demand. Automakers will face fines if they do not meet new EU CO2 targets by 2020, but the report lists the industry’s rather limited options.

First, the industry could boost sales of battery electric vehicles (BEV). However, with a consensus expectation of BEVs taking no more than 5% of the market by 2025 due to lack of charging infrastructure, it seems unlikely BEVs are the short-term solution.

Source: World Platinum Investment Council

Second, the industry could sell a higher percentage of hybrids. Recent trends, however, suggest demand for hybrids, despite Volkswagen’s Dieselgate, is still growing too slowly. Demand is certainly not growing fast enough to reach those emissions targets, which are just 2 ½ years away.

So, the third option — and to be fair to the WPIC, probably the most likely option — is for automakers to clean up diesel. The technology already exists to meet the most stringent nitrogen oxide (NOx) targets set for 2022, but the industry needs to do more than it has done in the past to prove to the buying public the performance figures they publish can be achieved in the real world.

The WPIC points to French automaker PSA, which has undertaken to publish independently certified, real-world CO2 test results for its vehicles. PSA also recently announced it will do the same for NOx results.

It is only by automakers voluntarily — or maybe by legislation — being forced to accept third-party verification of their emission figures that they will be able to rebuild consumer trust and deflect harsher government legislation on diesel engines in the future.

Not surprisingly, the attraction of the WPIC is significantly cleaner diesel engines will require increased platinum-group metal (PGM) loadings, even as the industry shifts from the current lean NOFX trap (LNT) system to the more effective selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology. According to ExtremeTech, when announcing Ford’s switch to SCR, it reported that SCR is more costly, but it’s also generally considered more effective than LNT.

Of course, the platinum price has more drivers than just the demand for the catalysts in the automotive market. Investor demand in the form of ETFs, physical demands in the form of jewelry, and chemical and catalyst demand from the chemicals industry are all significant drivers on the demand side.

But much of recent negative sentiment toward platinum has been due to controversy over the diesel engine’s ability to meet emission targets.

And in that sense, platinum’s fortunes will in part ride on the coattails of the auto industry’s ability to re-establish the diesel engine as an environmentally acceptable propulsion unit.

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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.