Industry News

Oracle announced Thursday it agreed to acquire Textura, a cloud-based solution for the construction industry with end-to-end capabilities spanning from initial bid estimation and sourcing through to subcontractor management, communication and collaboration, invoicing and payment.

Construction_yoders_550_030116

Textura can not only catalog the cost of installation of this structural form, but also log its completion and pay the sub-contractor that put it in. Image: Jeff Yoders/MetalMiner.

“Textura’s mission is to bring workflow automation and transparency to complex construction projects while improving their financial performance and minimizing risks,” Textura CEO David Habiger said in a statement. Read more

Saudi Aramco released an IPO plan of sorts about how it plans to diversify from being the world’s largest energy company to being much more and the Federal Reserve, as expected, left rates unchanged.

Saudi Aramco’s New Plan

The world’s biggest energy company, Saudi Aramco, outlined financing plans on Wednesday that will support its expansion into new areas under a sweeping economic reform plan released in Riyadh this week. The reforms envisage Aramco transforming itself from an oil and gas firm into a “global industrial conglomerate” involved in many sectors and services, using its vast financial resources to create jobs and help diversify the Saudi economy beyond oil.

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The plans suggest Saudi Arabia’s state oil company, which Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman estimated this week was worth over $2 trillion, aims to move rapidly into a new role offering diversified services such as shipbuilding and offshore rig services in the near term.

Fed, As Expected, Leaves Interest Rates Unchanged

Federal Reserve officials left interest rates unchanged and remained ambiguous about raising rates in June as mixed global economic signals and low inflation at home weighed on policy makers struggling to spark robust growth seven years after the recession’s end.

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In a statement Wednesday after a two-day meeting, the Fed stuck to its longstanding plan to move carefully on raising the benchmark federal-funds rate, which it has held between 0.25% and 0.50% since December, when it raised short-term rates after holding them near zero since 2008.

U.S. Steel is accusing Chinese steelmakers of intellectual property theft and Germany is subsidizing its electric car industry.

U.S. Steel Files Section 337 Petition

U.S. Steel Corp. has launched a campaign to prevent imports from China’s largest steel producers, it said on Tuesday, the boldest step yet by a U.S. company as a trade brawl with the world’s largest steel producer escalates.

In a complaint to the U.S. International Trade Commission, the domestic steelmaker called on regulators to investigate dozens of Chinese producers and their distributors for allegedly conspiring to fix prices, stealing trade secrets and circumventing trade duties by false labeling.

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The petition, known as Section 337 is used to protect against intellectual property theft, listed some of China’s top producers, including Hebei Iron & Steel Group and Anshan Iron and Steel Group and Shandong Iron & Steel Group Co.

“We have said that we will use every tool available to fight for fair trade,” said U.S. Steel Corp President and Chief Executive Officer Mario Longhi in a statement.

Germany Subsidizes Electric Car Development

Germany’s auto industry risks being overtaken by foreign competitors unless it receives greater domestic support, the country’s economy minister said today, announcing a 1 billion euro ($1.13 billion) plan to subsidize electric cars that are seen as the technology of the future.

Electric vehicles have had a sluggish start in Germany, the country where the combustion engine-powered automobile was born. A government plan to get 1 million e-cars on the streets by 2020 is far behind schedule, with just 50,000 sold so far.

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“After a long debate we have agreed to a subsidy program that aims to show on the home market that we can master these new drive trains, from plug-in hybrid to battery-powered vehicles, and make them suitable for the mass market,” Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said at a news conference in Berlin.

Steel imports into the U.S. were up in March while a glut of oil and gasoline production in Asia threatens the recent price rally.

Gasoline Glut In Asia

A rebound in oil prices this year from 12-year lows is in danger of coming to a crashing halt soon.

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The main engine of global demand growth for the past several years, Asian demand, starts to sputter amid signs of a gasoline glut in both Japan and China.

Steel Imports Into the U.S. Up in March

Based on preliminary Census Bureau data, the American Iron and Steel Institute reported recently that the U.S. imported a total of 2.5 million net tons (nt) of steel in March 2016, including 2.097 million nt of finished steel (up 12.9% and down 0.1%, respectively, vs. February final data).

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On the year-to-date, through three months of 2016 total and finished steel imports are 7.49 million and 6.424 million nt, down 36% and 34% respectively, vs. the same period in 2015. Annualized total and finished steel imports in 2016 would be 30 and 25.7 million nt, down 23% and 18% respectively vs. 2015. Finished steel import market share was an estimated 24% in March and is estimated at 25% YTD.

Russia said it will increase oil production without a deal with Saudi Arabia and other Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries members and the U.K. has reluctantly agreed to subsidize a deal to help sell Tata Steel‘s on-the-block U.K. mills.

Russia Says It’ll Increase Oil Production

Russia said on Wednesday it was prepared to push oil production to historic highs, just days after a global deal to freeze output levels collapsed and Saudi Arabia threatened to flood markets with more crude.

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Venezuela predicted prices could crash in the next few weeks if producers failed to resume dialogue and urged that non-OPEC participants be observers at a June OPEC meeting, as the specter of oversupply loomed once more.

Cameron Government Supports Nationalizing U.K. Steel Mills

Great Britain could part-nationalize Tata Steel‘s remaining U.K. interests by taking a 25% equity stake, as part of a support package worth hundreds of millions of pounds designed to attract a buyer and save at least 10,000 jobs.

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The Conservative Cameron government, which privatized the steel and other industries under former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, is seen as being anxious to avoid an imminent closure of the U.K.’s biggest steel works at Port Talbot in South Wales just before a referendum on European Union membership in case of a protest vote.

A former success story in U.S. renewable energy has filed for chapter 11 even as China’s “zombie mills” fire up steel production again.

SunEdison Files for Bankruptcy

U.S. solar energy company SunEdison Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Thursday, becoming one of the largest non-financial companies to do so in the past 10 years.

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Once the fastest-growing U.S. renewable energy developer, SunEdison embarked on an aggressive acquisition strategy that left it struggling with $12 billion in debt.

In its bankruptcy filing, the company said it had assets of $20.7 billion and liabilities of $16.1 billion as of Sept. 30.

China’s Zombie Mills Fire Up Production

The rest of the world’s steel producers may be pressuring Beijing to slash output and help reduce a global glut that is causing losses and costing jobs, but the opposite is happening in the steel towns of China.

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While the Chinese government points to reductions in steel making capacity it has engineered, a rapid rise in local prices this year has seen mills ramp up output. Even “zombie” mills, which stopped production but were not closed down, have been resurrected.

The United Steelworkers union recently filed a petition with the U.S. International Trade Commission for the U.S. to invoke a global safeguard under Section 201 of U.S. trade law and impose tariffs of up to 50% on primary unwrought aluminum. Producers have, until recently, been reluctant to even attempt aluminum safeguards or petition section 201 for other metals.

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This proceeding could have a significant impact on global aluminum producers, particularly from China, and U.S. importers and users of aluminum products.

Are aluminum slabs welded together really "deep-processed extrusions?"

Are aluminum slabs welded together really “deep-processed extrusions?”

The ITC must decide within 60 days whether the conditions for “critical circumstances” are met and whether to recommend provisional relief. Once the ITC has made its decision on the critical circumstances claim, regardless of whether or not it recommends provisional relief, it will begin an investigation under Section 201 of U.S. trade law.

Investigation Planned

The underlying ITC investigation typically takes 120 days — although it is allowed to take 150 days for complicated cases — and then has another 60 days to develop relief recommendations for the President of the United States. The ITC’s recommendations are then sent to the U.S. Trade Representative, which formulates a recommendation to the President who then has 50-60 days to decide whether or not to grant final phase relief.

The question for the ITC is whether primary aluminum is being imported into the U.S. “in such increased quantities as to be a substantial cause of serious injury, or the threat thereof” to the U.S. aluminum industry.

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Imports of aluminum “semi-finished products,” which can be as little as ingots with minor finishing, from China into the U.S. increased 63% in 2015, according to the Aluminum Association, the trade association of North American producers.

The American Iron and Steel Institute praised strong statements from eight nations meeting in Brussels to deal with the steel overcapacity crisis. The U.S. Mint might stop making pennies.

Wither the Penny?

The Wall Street Journal’s Nick Timiraos reported that in a March memo to President Barack Obama, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said he planned to suspend production of the venerable penny.

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Pennies fall out of circulation almost immediately, forcing the U.S. Mint to continually stamp out more, and they cost almost twice as much to produce as they’re worth, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Mint.

American Steel Organizations Applaud Overcapacity Statement

The American Iron and Steel Institute today said that a joint statement by eight governments on steel overcapacity issued yesterday at a meeting of most major steel producers in Brussels is an “important demonstration that many major steel-producing nations are united in their commitment to take action to address the global steel overcapacity situation that is negatively affecting the world’s steel industry.”

The statement was issued by the U.S., Canada, the European Union, Japan, Mexico, the Republic of Korea (South Korea), Switzerland, and Turkey as a result of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s High-Level Meeting on Excess Capacity and Structural Adjustment in the Steel Sector this week.

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It follows a strongly worded statement from the Department of Commerce and U.S. Trade Representative on Monday criticizing China, and other countries, for their unwillingness to work to address the overcapacity issue while at the OECD meetings.

Saudi Arabia saw its oil exports fall in February and steel producer nations couldn’t agree on a plan to curb output.

Saudi Oil Exports Fall

Saudi Arabia’s crude oil exports fell in February to 7.553 million barrels per day from 7.835 million barrels per day in January, official data showed on Monday.

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The world’s largest oil exporter produced 10.220 million bpd of crude in February compared with 10.230 million bpd in January, the data showed. Saudi Arabia’s domestic crude oil inventories fell to 305.599 million barrels in February from 314.119 million barrels a month earlier. Despite falling exports, the Kingdom quashed any hope of a production freeze deal at a Doha, Qatar, meeting of producer-nations last week mostly over Iran’s newly unsanctioned production.

Steel Talks Don’t Result in Agreement

China and other major steel-producing countries failed to agree to measures to tackle a global steel crisis as the sides argued over the causes of overcapacity, prompting U.S. criticism of Beijing’s approach and an angry response from Chinese officials.

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A meeting of ministers and trade officials from over 30 countries, hosted by Belgium in Brussels and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on Monday, sought to tackle excess capacity, but concluded only that it had to be dealt with in a swift and structural way.

The Environmental Protection Agency insisted it did follow its own rules in blocking the new toxic mercury role and heavy rain in Chile of affecting copper production.

The Environmental Protection Agency Friday issued an updated cost analysis, defending its issuance of the first-ever federal regulations requiring power plants to cut mercury emissions and other toxic air pollutants.

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The agency’s move was prompted by a Supreme Court ruling last year that said the agency hadn’t taken into account the costs to industry, as it was required to do, before deciding to adopt the rules.

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 opinion last June, said the EPA must reconsider the mercury rules because of that omission. The rules, however, have remained in effect during that process.

The EPA initially adopted the mercury rules in 2012 and they took effect in April 2015. The agency initially concluded that costs weren’t a relevant consideration when it was deciding on the need for the mercury regulations.

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Later, as it was writing the rule, the agency estimated an annual cost to the utility sector of $9.6 billion, compared with public-health benefits of at least $37 billion. The Supreme Court, however, said the agency should have made that calculation earlier, as it was deciding whether to adopt the rules in the first place.

Chilean Rains Halt Copper Mining

Heavy rains in central Chile have prompted global miner Anglo American Plc. and state-owned producer Codelco to temporarily suspend operations at two major copper mines with combined annual capacity of 880,000 metric tons.