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This morning in metals news, the Section 232 steel investigation is reportedly in its final stages, better-than-expected data on the Chinese economy buoyed copper prices and a 3-D printing startup got a rich vote of confidence.

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Section 232 Steel Conclusion: Almost There?

The Section 232 investigations launched by the Trump administration in April have been the talk of the metals world.

While the announcement of the steel investigation was previously expected to happen by the end of June, the administration blew past that self-imposed deadline. Now, however, American Metal Market reports a “key report in the US Commerce Department’s Section 232 investigation into steel imports is nearly complete,” according to a department spokesman.

The announcement would come as tension continues to rise between the U.S. and China. Reuters reported yesterday that China had a record June for steel and aluminum production, which surely won’t do much to dissuade the Trump administration from imposing tariffs or quotas to combat global excess supply from China.

China Data Good For Copper

Reuters reported faster-than-expected Chinese economic growth led to copper prices holding steady Tuesday.

Despite a strong second quarter for the Chinese economy, many analysts predicted a second-half slowdown as the government looks to put the squeeze on credit growth. With that said, Chinese growth exceeded expectations, so perhaps the slowdown will not be as significant as expected.

The next dominoes to drop — the Section 232 investigations — may also have significant ripple effects for not only China, but the global economy.

Big Investment in Metal 3-D Printing

Desktop Metal announced it secured $115 million in funding, according to Fortune, a funding sum that includes backing from a number of big-name investors.

The 3-D printing startup, founded in 2015, aims “to make metal 3D printing accessible for engineering teams,” according to the company’s website.

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In terms of the regular, everyday consumer, 3-D printing still has a long way to go.

From the industrial side, however, money talks.

In this case, the $115 million investment is saying that some major players believe in the technology and see a bright future in it.

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What is already a global copper deficit could worsen this year with more mines expected to be affected by worker strikes in the coming months.

According to a report by Reuters, South American copper mines are bracing for additional strikes, but polls indicate price movements have already been taken this information into account.

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“We will mostly likely see more disruptions later this year … but they are not to be as severe, and the price impacts should be largely priced in,” economist Amy Li at National Australia Bank in Melbourne, told Reuters.

The previous strikes Li is referring to were earlier this year in the world’s largest copper mine at Chile’s Escondida and the No. 2 Grasberg mine in Indonesia.

Reuters also reported copper traded on the London Metal Exchange increased 8% this year, ranking fourth of the six main LME-traded metals.

Copper Prices to Fall?

Despite a perceived shortage in global production of the metal, numerous reports have copper at risk for a price shortfall. The reason? Slow Chinese economic growth, which could take 10% or more off copper prices in the next several months.

“We expect several of the recent drivers of industrial metals — especially stronger economic growth in China — to slow going into the second half of the year,” Seth Rosenfeld, senior research analyst at Jefferies told Fox Business.

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.

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