Copper

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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.

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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.

Cobalt and lithium have big roles in the burgeoning electric-vehicle market, but they’re still subject to price volatility. scharfsinn86/Adobe Stock

This morning in metals news, demand for cobalt and lithium will only grow with the electric car industry, but price ups and downs are likely in the offing, too; London copper took a dip after the U.S. Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike announcement Wednesday; and the U.S. coal industry, in a world with less demand for coal as an energy product, might have to get creative. One writer suggests mining for coal — not for coal itself, but for rare-earth metals contained within it.

Cobalt, lithium markets growing with EVs, but could see fluctuation

One thing is certain: the electric-car industry is growing rapidly.

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According to a Reuters story Thursday by Andy Home, the number of electric cars on roads worldwide doubled last year to 2 million — but only accounted for 0.2% of the global total. However, estimates indicate that number will grow to 3% as soon as 2021 and 14% in 2025.

With that growth comes a need for certain kinds of metals, like cobalt and lithium.

But with a still relatively young electric-vehicle industry, what will demand for these metals look like in the near future?

Cobalt and lithium, for example, are on the “front-line” of the “green transport revolution, Home writes. But that means, to an extent, being subject to the whims of an industry in its early stages.

Large price hikes in lithium late last year and early this year have leveled off. Home added there could be further price volatility, as producers, analysts and traders try to construct consensus demand models.

Copper falls to one-week low

Copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) dropped to a one-week low Thursday, on the heels of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision to hike interest rates for the second time this year, Reuters reported.

Copper fell to $5,462 per ton, according to the report.

Financial uncertainty in the U.S. and a slowing of the Chinese economy will put selling pressure on metals, according to a Kingdom Futures report quoted by Reuters.

Coal industry mining for … rare earths

Global coal production has declined each of the last three years. With a decline in demand, coal-mining operations have to adapt to a world increasingly powered by green energy.

The solution for some might be mining for coal, not for coal’s energy-producing properties, but for the rare-earth metals found within them, according to an article Thursday in Quartz. Per the article, China currently produces 90% of the world’s rare-earth metals.

It’s an interesting idea, even if author Akshat Rathi writes that his three ideas for extraction of rare-earth metals from coal are currently not economically feasible.

Free Download: The June 2017 MMI Report

But, as mentioned in yesterday’s This Morning in Metals post, producers have to adapt with the times. Whether we’re talking about copper producers looking for new markets for their copper or coal-mining operations mining for rare-earth metals found within coal, producers have to adjust or risk being left behind.

Our June MMI Report is in the books, and there’s a lot to unpack.

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Out of 10 MMI sub-indexes, four posted no movement from our May MMIs. That wasn’t true for all, though, as the report shows promising signs for construction (compared with last year). Like the Construction MMI, growth in the automotive sector slowed a bit, but still performed better than at the same time last year.

In terms of policy, several things happening around the world will have macroscopic effects on these industries.

Domestically, the Trump administration’s ongoing Section 232 investigation into steel imports will have ripple effects at home and abroad (namely in the Chinese steel market).

In the U.K., the recent shocker of a parliamentary election leaves question marks regarding the way forward — is it going to be a “hard” or “soft” Brexit? Does Theresa May have the political capital to make a hard Brexit happen? It seems unlikely now, but that situation continues to develop. In terms of business and metal markets, whichever iteration of Brexit takes hold will have effects on the ways in which British companies do business with Europe.

In China, many analysts expect growth to slow in the second half of 2017 as the government aims to put the squeeze on credit growth. (Moody’s recently downgraded China’s credit rating for the first time since 1989.)

While several MMI sub-indexes did not go up or down this past month, there was still quite a bit going on in each sector. You can fill yourself in by downloading our June MMI Report, which offers all of the storylines and trends for our 10 MMI sub-indexes, presented in one convenient place.

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Copper prices rallied late last week on the heels of severe weather striking several South American mines, as well as labor issues cropping up in Indonesia.

According to a report from MarketWatch, copper prices climbed 1.12% to $5,688 per metric ton on the London Metal Exchange last Thursday morning.

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Copper had previously opened the month on the low end, but unexpected weather and labor issues quickly reversed that trend:

“Those mine disruptions in Chile are the major supply-side news this week,” BOCI Global Commodities’s Xiao Fu told the news source.

In China, import data revealed an 8.5% month-over-month increase in refined copper imports.

“That increase is a fairly substantial one and is helping prices rebound after being beaten up over the past few weeks,” ETF Securities strategist Nitesh Shah told the news source.

Copper Prices Affected by Chinese Demand

The MetalMiner Copper MMI remained steady in June. Writes our own Irene Martinez Canorea:

“Currently, copper prices are directly affected by Chinese demand, as well as by uncertainty in supply. This downtrend in copper prices might be just a brief pause in a dynamic market. Thus, copper-buying organizations should watch the market closely, looking for a possible uptrend that would show a recovery.”

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. For a short- and long-term buying strategy with specific price thresholds:

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This morning in metals news, a French bank has sued a metals broker for $32 million over alleged fraudulent receipts; aluminum, copper and lead take a fall in India; and copper hit a five-week high on the London Metal Exchange (LME) as a result of constrained supply from Chile and strong demand in China.

Alleged Fraudulent Receipts at Heart of French Lawsuit

French bank Natixis has filed a lawsuit against metals broker Marex Spectron over alleged fraudulent receipts, Reuters reports.

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According to a court filing, the $32 million lawsuit is over fraudulent receipts for nickel stored at warehouses in Asia run by a unit of commodities giant Glencore, Reuters reported.

Marex Spectron contested the claim in a statement. Natixis seeks damages because it alleges it provided finance based on fake receipts in a deal arranged by Marex Spectron.

Base Metals Take a Tumble in India

A trio of metals took a fall as a result of “muted demand,” according to the Economic Times.

Aluminum, copper and lead fell in India as a result of speculators offloading positions, according to analysts in the Economic Times report.

Copper Prices Move Up on LME

While copper was down in India, prices were up elsewhere, according to Reuters.

According to the report, copper hit a five-week high on the LME, “helped by concerns over supply from Chile, recent data pointing to robust import demand in China and falling stocks of the metal.”

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) hit its highest price since early May.

Free Download: The May 2017 MMI Report

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This morning in metals news, copper prices made a bit of a comeback on Thursday, gold neared a 2017 high and a Japanese steel plate manufacturer is asking the U.S. Court of International Trade to reconsider the scope of anti-dumping and countervailing duties with respect to tool steel.

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Copper Bounces Back

After a downward trend for copper, the metal showed signs of recovery on Thursday, according to a Reuters report.

Reports of strong imports and exports in China for May helped give copper a boost after a three-week low this week.

However, analysts indicated that upside for the metal is limited. Given analysts’  expectations of a Chinese growth slowdown in the second half of 2017, among other factors, it would not surprise to see copper experience setbacks throughout the remainder of the calendar year.

Read more

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This morning in metals news, a new firm is looking to challenge the London Metal Exchange (LME), copper prices took a fall and sluggish demand also knocked down other base metals.

NFEx Eyes Early 2018 For Launch of New Trading Platform

The LME, founded 140 years ago, might have some competition in the near future.

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NFEx Markets announced Monday it plans to open its own trading platform for base metals in the first quarter of 2018, according to a Reuters report.

NFEx has offices in London’s financial district — the new company, incorporated in March, aims to attract physical trade.

“Contracts and trade dates will match established physical industry practice,” the company said in a release. “This new trading platform will not replace or disturb current trading models but will be complementary to them.”

Copper Prices Dip

Like other metals, copper prices fell on Monday, according to a Reuters report.

Copper inventories monitored by the Shanghai Futures Exchange grew for a third consecutive week, as demand seems to have declined. Many expect China to have slower growth in the second half of 2017.

Nickel, Lead, Zinc Also Down

Similarly, nickel, lead and zinc futures were down in India, the Economic Times reported.

The declines were the result of low demand, according to the report.

Lead futures were down by 0.40%, while nickel and zinc futures were each down by 0.24%.

Free Download: The May 2017 MMI Report

Ford Motor Company has bet the farm on electric and driverless cars, to borrow a phrase from an article this week.

The appointment of Ford’s new boss, Jim Hackett — who previously headed Ford’s Smart Mobility subsidiary from March 2016 but prior to that, was boss of Steelcase, a business furniture company — illustrates more graphically than words that Ford has read the runes for the internal combustion engine and the current automotive business model, and decided it needs a radical shake-up in its thinking and approach.

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A rethink of where the industry is going over the next 10 years has prompted not just the hiring of this talented outsider, but also, earlier this year, Ford’s $1 billion investment in Argo AI, an artificial intelligence company that, it is hoped, will produce the software needed for a new generation of self-driving cars.

Self-driving cars, though, are dependent not just on developing new technologies but a host of legal, insurance policy and regulatory changes that will take time to evolve.

Read more

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Last month, China announced plans to build a new megacity from scratch. Since the city will be twice the size of New York City, analysts expect the project to require huge amounts of steel and other industrial metals such as aluminum and copper.

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According to Citi Research analysts, 12-14 million tons of extra steel will be required annually to build this new development. Since the country’s current domestic demand is about 700 million tons, that would lift Chinese steel demand by 2% per year over the next 10 years.

But are the analysts correct? Should we expect a steel demand boost over the next 10-15 years?

Although building this city from scratch will indeed require a lot of steel, analysts are making the mistake of missing the forest for the trees. The key driver for steel demand in China is the net migration from the countryside to cities. It doesn’t really matter whether China builds a new megacity or it expands its city limits. The key measure is the rate of urbanization in the country at a national level.

Urban and rural population in China. Source: China’s Economy book by Arthur R.Kroeber

China’s urban share has grown quickly over the past two decades since its rural population peaked in 1995. Last year, China’s urban population share reached 57.9%. The share, however, is still small given the country’s income level. Read more

This morning in metals news, the strike at Freeport McRoRan’s Grasberg copper mine was extended for a second month, oil prices rose in expectation of supply cuts, and silver prices reached a three-week high.

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Freeport Indonesia Strike Extended

This past Saturday, the union representing thousands of workers at Freeport’s Grasberg copper mine in Papua, Indonesia announced that the ongoing strike will be extended beyond May 30, Reuters reported. As union industrial relations officer Tri Puspital told Reuters, “We will extend the strike for 30 more days.” Approximately 9,000 workers are participating in the strike.

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The reason for the strike revolves around employment. Last month, Freeport laid off about 10% of its 32,000 workers to cut costs, which accrued to the tune of millions thanks to an ongoing dispute with the Indonesian government over rights to the Grasberg mine. “With this problematic combination of protests from workers and tensions with the Indonesian government,” wrote MetalMiner analyst Raul de Frutos earlier this month, “it’s no wonder that investors are concerned about further supply disruptions this year.” It looks like supply disruptions will continue.

A Key Week for Oil

One hopes that this will be the only time when news source after news source mentions Saudi Arabia and glowing orbs in the same headline. In more important news, Bloomberg reported yesterday that Saudi Arabia has received Iraq’s support to extend oil output cuts for nine months, after Saudi Minister of Energy Khalid Al-Falih flew to Baghdad to talk to Jabar al-Luaibi, his Iraqi counterpart. Read more