Articles in Category: Sourcing Strategies

The International Lead and Zinc Study Group released its February 2017 report on zinc, which found the global market for the refined metal was in deficit in 2016.

It’s reported that zinc inventories in warehouses operated by the London Metal Exchange, Shanghai Futures Exchange and Chinese State Reserve Bureau — along with those reported by producers, merchants and consumers — decreased last year.

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The ILZSG report stated: “A substantial 43.1% decline in Australian zinc mine output was primarily a consequence of the closure of MMG’s Century mine at the end of 2015 and a reduction in output at a number of Glencore’s mines. Production was also significantly lower in Ireland, due to the shutdown of Vedanta’s Lisheen operation, India and Peru. However, these reductions were offset by increases in Bolivia, Canada, China and the commissioning of new production in Eritrea. As a consequence overall world production was at a similar level to that in 2015.”

It’s also important to note the global output of refined zinc metal was on par with the total tallied in 2015, with China and the Republic of Korea leading the way.

Zinc Prices on the Rise

Our own Raul de Frutos covered the ILZSG findings earlier this week, and also noted that it is only a matter of time before Chinese zinc producers are forced to reduce their output of the refined metal.

He added: “As a result of this narrative of supply shortfall, zinc is trading at the highest levels in more than eight years. Bulls have been in such a powerful position that prices have barely retraced during this run.”

How will zinc 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:

When it comes to metal prices, is any one price really representative of the hundreds of transactions that happen every day? While market prices posted on exchanges are a good guide, isn’t it the transactions behind them actually move markets?

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Organizations have been tapping the potential of crowdsourcing, defined by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism as the act of specifically inviting a group of people to participate in a reporting task—such as newsgathering, data collection, or analysis—through a targeted, open call for input; personal experiences; documents; or other contributions.

The British Parliament used a primitive form of crowdsourcing in 1719 to find a way to measure a ship’s longitudinal position. The Crown offered the public a monetary prize to whoever came up with the best solution. In 1970 French amateur photo contest ‘C’était Paris en 1970’ (‘This Was Paris in 1970’) — sponsored by the city of Paris, France-Inter radio, and the Fnac — got 14,000 amateur photographers to produce 70,000 black-and-white prints and 30,000 color slides of the French capital to document the architectural changes of Paris. Photographs were donated to the Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.

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The actual term crowdsourcing wouldn’t be coined until 2005 when Wired writer Jeff Howe used it. Some organizations have successfully mined its potential to create powerful e-businesses. Netflix used crowdsourcing to improve its recommendation engine by 10%, attracting over 44,000 submissions. Wikipedia’s content is entirely crowdsourced from contributors to create a “free-access, free content Internet encyclopedia. Wikipedia executives have said the non-profit service never could have worked without crowdsourcing.

MetalMiner Benchmark

We recently launched MetalMiner Benchmark. Source: MetalMiner.

Lego Ideas is a platform that lets individual Lego builders submit their ideas, like this Volkswagen Golf brick creation, to the company for production. Kickstarter, GoFundme and other platforms have branched out into crowdfunding, using crowdsourcing to solicit donations for specific projects or, as in the link above, even funding for zoo animals like giraffes.

What Does This Mean for Metal Buyers?

MetalMiner recently launched a new metal price benchmark service. You can currently use MetalMiner Benchmark to compare what you’re paying for raw materials against 31,384,272 price benchmarks from 1,232 companies in 22 Industries. By adding your prices to the MetalMiner Benchmark database, the crowdsourced price database will grow exponentially.

We will continue to offer the latest transactional price information to you, the metals buyer, to inform your decisions about several forms of carbon steel, stainless steel, aluminum, nickel alloy and alloy steel on our safe, secure and anonymous platform. All data entered is validated for its accuracy and then only used for price comparisons.

US hot-rolled coil prices retrace. Source: MetalMiner IndX.

Since November — Coinciding with Donald Trump’s victory — U.S. steel prices have been on a tear.

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However, in February momentum started to cool down. It’s now buyers’ job to determine whether this is a major peak or just a pause within this bull market.

Chinese Steel Capacity Rises in 2016

In February, a report by Greenpeace East Asia and Chinese consultancy Custeel stated that despite China’s high-profile efforts to tackle overcapacity, China’s operating steel capacity increased in 2016. The report says that 73% of the announced cuts in capacity were already idle — in other words the plants were not operating. Only 23 million metric tons of cut capacity involved shutting down production plants that were operating.

Meanwhile, some 49 mmt of capacity that had previously been suspended was restarted, and 12 mmt of new operating capacity came online. That means that China added 37 million metric tons additional operating capacity in 2016. 

Hot-rolled coil prices in China also take a pause. Source: MetalMiner IndX.

This news is bearish for steel prices and it is likely contributing to lower steel prices in February, both in the U.S. and China. Read more

Macro photo of a piece of lead ore

The International Lead and Zinc Study Group released its initial lead findings for February, and found that in 2016, supply exceeded demand in the global market for the refined metal.

Furthermore, lead inventories reported by the London Metal Exchange, Shanghai Futures Exchange and consumers and producers during that same period of time increased, as well.

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 elaborated: “There was a sharp decrease in Australian lead mine output mainly as a consequence of the closure of the Century mine in 2015 and cutbacks in output at some Glencore operations. Production was also lower in India and Mexico. However, these reductions were partially balanced by a rise in China resulting in an overall global decline of 1.3%.”

However, world refined lead metal production actually increased 2.4% in 2016. This was mostly attributed to the Republic of Korea (South Korea) commissioning a new primary lead plant in 2015.

Lead Price Momentum on High in 2017

According to a recent piece from our own Raul de Frutos, after a strong run in 2016, lead prices pulled back to close the year. However, prices have since recovered and Raul predicts they will trade at $2,800 by the end of this year.

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“(Lead prices) are currently below $20 per metric ton, from $80 just three months ago. In this respect, lead is playing catch-up with its cousin zinc, in which the deficit for refined metal is more obvious. In 2017 investors will be closely monitoring China’s numbers. The slump in treatment charges and the fact that China must get serious about controlling industrial metals output to solve its pollution problem could result in lower lead refined output this year.”

How will lead and base metals fare this year? 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:

This week President Donald Trump began to deliver on his campaign promises to deregulate industry and unshackle American manufacturing, using the Congressional Review Act, a 1996 law that empowers Congress to review, by means of an expedited legislative process, new federal regulations issued by government agencies and, by passage of a joint resolution, to overrule the regulation.

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First up, Congress passed a law under the CRA that rolled back an Obama administration rule that would have required oil, gas and mineral extraction companies to disclose payments made to governments. The Securities and Exchange Commission rule never went into effect and exploration companies and industry organizations such as the American Petroleum Institute, said it put natural resource companies at a competitive disadvantage to foreign firms by disclosing too much of their contract terms.

Iron ore mine

Deregulation via the CRA will help minerals mining and exploration. Source: Adobe Stock/nikitos77.

Metals producers and other companies dependent on minerals to make their products generally supported the repeal. Another potent input for the creation of metals is coal and Trump followed up the CRA action by signing a bill that quashed the Office of Surface Mining’s Stream Protection Rule, a regulation to protect waterways from coal mining waste that officials finalized in December. Regulators spent most of Obama’s administration eight years writing the Stream Protection Rule and it was effectively wiped away with the stroke of Trump’s pen thanks to the CRA.

The House has passed several CRA resolutions, and the Senate has so far sent three of them to President Trump so far, but there are at least 10 CRA bills still moving through the House and Senate. Until now, only one CRA resolution had ever been passed and signed into law: the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s workplace ergonomics rules, in 2001.

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If Trump and the republican Congress continue to use the CRA to roll back rules, they could potently erase much of the regulation that business organizations have said hamstrung them for the last eight years.

Using the CRA to roll back regulations would certainly make it easier for Trump to deliver on his promises of smarter, better regulations for industries such as manufacturing and mining. Using it also helps the Congress keep up a commitment from an early Trump executive order that it must repeal two regulations for every new one. We could see a slew of deregulation actions to allow Congress to “bank” new regulations if it needs to pass a law to, perhaps, create a new definition of what a countervailable subsidy is for companies to petition the Commerce Department to allow it to place duties on foreign imports.

A lighted underground tunnel in a nickel mine

Nickel prices increased early in February with hedge funds and speculators hurrying to close bets against the metal with the Philippines moving ahead with regulations on its mining industry.

According to a recent report from the Financial Times, nickel’s climb was directly attributed to the closure of 21 mines along with the suspension of another six pits, including the nation’s largest gold mine.

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 Philippines is the world’s most significant source of unprocessed nickel ore, along with being a major supplier to China, the news source stated. A renewed emphasis on environmentalism led to Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte appointing a like-minded resource minister to investigate the nation’s mining industry.

“My issue here is not about mining, my issue here is about social justice,” Regina Lopez, natural resources secretary, said during a recent briefing. “Why is mining more important than people’s lives?”

Nickel Price Outlook for 2017

Lopez pointed at the mine closures, which account for nearly half of the nation’s nickel output.

“We are very pleased to see the Philippines taking this action while allowing proper mining companies which adhere to better environmental practice to continue,” analysts at SP Angel told the Financial Times, adding the whole nickel supply chain was an “environmental disaster”.

“The huge growth of ore exports into China for the production of nickel pig iron disrupted the nickel industry in recent years while causing massive environmental disruption in the mining areas and at the nickel pig-iron furnaces.”

How will nickel 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:

 

Ezio Gutzemberg/Adobe Stock

The tin market in London remained tight last month and the underlying problem appears to be a lack of deliverable metal.

According to a recent Reuters report from Andy Home, a closer look at China reveals a significant supply of tin registered with the Shanghai Futures Exchange, but it previously was hiding behind the country’s 10% export duty.

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, that doesn’t appear to be the case any longer as China evidently removed the barrier without notification, which could lead to serious consequences for the worldwide flow of tin and, more specifically, the London Metal Exchange market.

Home writes: “There is still a good deal of uncertainty as to what exactly may, or may not, have happened. But tin industry body ITRI has drawn attention to the fact that the tin export duty has not been referenced in China’s 2017 Exports Commodities Tax Rates table.”

Home adds the reason for China dropping the duty, a standard for nearly 10 years, can be attributed to the US-filed complaint last July to the World Trade Organization regarding their export duties on numerous metals and minerals, including tin.

Tin Price Update for February

Just last week our own Raul de Frutos wrote tin prices dropped 9% since the beginning of the year, reaching a 5-month low.

de Frutoes wrote: “There are two factors driving this decline:

  • Profit taking: Prices rallied near 70% in 2016 and prices need to digest those gains.
  • Speculation that China has removed it’s 10% export duty on refined tin exports.”

How will tin 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:

We warned last month that the mostly small losses the prices our MetalMiner IndX experienced were caused by investors taking profits.

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Our suspicions were confirmed when almost all of our sub-indexes had big price rebounds this month. The Automotive MMI jumped 12.2% Raw Steels 8% and Aluminum 6%. Even our Stainless Steel MMI only dropped 1.7% and has taken off since February 1 as nickel supply is even more in question now with both the Philippines and Indonesia’s raw ore exports in question.

The bull market is on for the entire industrial metals complex. Last month’s pause was necessary for markets to digest gains but the strong positive sentiment for both manufacturing and construction shows no signs of ebbing in the U.S. and Chinese markets.

Last year, investors were wondering whether copper was worth more than $6,000 per metric ton or not.

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Late in 2016, prices were struggling to overcome this psychological level, but things are shaping up for 2017 to be a hot year for copper production, which could translate into a hot year for the copper price.

Upside momentum for copper prices picked up on supply disruptions. Copper rises above $6,000 per metric ton. Source: MetalMiner analysis of FastMarkets.com data.

Escondida Stops Production

Chile’s massive Escondida mine’s processing plants completely stopped supplying refined copper to markets on Thursday as no miners arrived for morning work. The mine produced around 1 million mt of copper last year, or 5% of global production.  Read more

The 2010 Dodd-Frank law explicitly gives the President of the United States authority to order the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to temporarily suspend or revise the Conflict Minerals rule included in the Dodd-Frank banking reform law for two years if it is “in the national security interest of the U.S.”

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Last week we reported that the Trump administration was working on a draft executive order to, indeed, suspend the rule which requires reporting of supply chains to enforce a ban on tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It’s backed by human-rights groups but many businesses say the rule, as is, requires a swath of industries to investigate whether their products contain the metals far down their supply chains. Compliance has already been hit or miss for the rule. Last year, 65% of companies said they still could not make determinations about their full supply chains.

Reuters reported that the leaked draft memo, which its reporters saw, said that the Secretary of State and Secretary of the Treasury were tasked with proposing a plan for addressing human rights violations and the funding of armed groups in the Congo and were also required toreport back within 180 days.

The memo also lays out a justification for suspending the rule, saying that while it has helped discourage some American companies from purchasing materials in the region, it has also led to “some job loss.”

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Of course, this is only a draft and it could significantly change before any actual executive order is drafted. The one thing that is sure, however, is that thanks to the wording of the Dodd-Frank law, President Donal Trump (R.-N.Y) does, indeed, have the power to suspend the rule for up to two years.