India

The jury may be out on whether the recently concluded Group of 20 (G20) summit’s protectionist slant will hurt India or not (though everybody is near-unanimous that where overproduction of steel was concerned, China’s had it coming for a long time).

Participate in MetalMiner’s Budgeting Workshop on July 26 to help set your 2018 metals budget

The G20 leaders at the July 7-8 summit in Hamburg, Germany, had agreed to address “growing overcapacity and rock-bottom prices in global steel markets.” This, after pressure was applied by the U.S. administration, which managed to get some strongly worded language inserted into the G20 communique, even setting deadlines for G20 members to address the issue of excess steel production.

The communique urged world leaders to seek the removal of “market-distorting subsidies and other types of support by governments and related entities,” according to a copy obtained by news agency Bloomberg.

The statement called on all G20 members to “fulfill their commitments on enhancing information sharing and cooperation by August 2017, and to rapidly develop concrete policy solutions that reduced steel excess capacity.” All the data and proposed policy solutions will also be compiled as a report and published by the OECD’s Global Forum on Steel Excess Capacity in November this year.

Some last-minute maneuvering by the Trump administration saw such strong language being inserted into the communique to fight protectionist measures and ensure reciprocity in trade and investment frameworks. Many saw this as a departure from attempts to include similar language at the G20 finance ministers’ meeting in March, barely a month before the U.S. had launched investigations to determine whether cheap steel imports posed a threat to U.S. national security, startling many sector experts.

Calls to lower overcapacity are largely aimed at China, producer of half of global crude steel output until May 2017. Even though China has insisted it had clamped down on polluting and unviable steel capacity, the impact on steel production has been negligible so far, experts say. (Stuart Burns wrote on the subject of capacity cuts last week.)

Even at the 2016 G20 summit, European and U.S. leaders asked China to accelerate capacity cuts, blaming its big exports on slumping prices and accusing it of dumping cheap metal in foreign markets.

Data for global crude steel output in 2017 through May showed output grew 4.7%, while U.S. output was up by only 2.2%. In comparison, steel output in the European Union (EU) rose by 4.1%. China’s output was up by 4.4%, although May saw output grow by 1.8%.

India’s steel industry has come to rely on exports since its domestic demand had not kept pace with the increase in capacity. While some in India say the country needs ready access to global steel markets, any such protectionist move could put pressure on growth.

On the other hand, other experts were of the view that the move could resolve a large part of the non-performing assets problem in the Indian banking sector. At the moment, a number of Indian steel companies were facing bankruptcy and their lenders were looking to sell their assets.

Any move by G20 companies to support the world steel prices would eventually help Indian companies’ realizations from exports.

Free Download: The July 2017 MMI Report

misunseo/Adobe Stock

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

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

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.

gui yong nian/Adobe Stock

Before we head into the weekend, let’s take a brief look back at some of the news from the world of metals this week:

China’s Falling Steel Exports?

Earlier this week, our Stuart Burns wrote about the phenomenon of dropping Chinese steel exports:

“As we noted in a piece yesterday reviewing the 232 probe, China’s share of the U.S. import market for steel products has been falling for the last couple of years, mainly due to successful anti-dumping cases,” Burns writes. “China no longer appears even in the top 10.

So, what exactly is going on in China with respect to steel production and demand? Can we take it that Beijing’s actions to tackle excess steel production have finally resolved China’s deflationary impact on global steel markets?”

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

In case you missed it on Monday, definitely give the story a read, especially as the Department of Commerce’s Section 232 steel investigation results will be announced any day now.

Indian Coal Faces Green Wave

Also earlier this week, our Sohrab Darabshaw wrote about coal mine closures in India, partially a result of the growth of the renewable energy sector:

“One estimate by the Energy and Resources Institute predicts if the cost of renewable energy and storage continue to fall, India may phase out coal power completely by 2050. Both solar and wind energy prices have been steadily decreasing over the last three years.

“In 2016-17, India added over 14,000 megawatts of new renewable energy power compared to almost 7,000 megawatts of new coal power capacity.”

Even so, the dependence on old energy sources won’t disappear immediately. Yesterday, Indian Steel Minister Choudhary Birender Singh announced India will ramp up its steel production significantly. That uptick in production will need energy, and Singh indicated Coal India Ltd. will be asked to provide the coal needed to back the steel-production operations.

In general, however, the interplay between older, dirtier sources of energy and clean, renewable energy sources is happening all over the world.

China-U.S. Back and Forth

Tensions have been building between the U.S. and China, as Reuters reported President Donald Trump was growing frustrated with China over its inability to rein in North Korea, while China expressed concern this week about the results of the Section 232 aluminum investigation.

The Department of Commerce investigations into steel and aluminum imports were announced in April.

Adding to the tension is China’s disapproval of a planned $1.42 billion arms sale by the U.S. to Taiwan, which the Chinese embassy denounced in a statement, Reuters reported Friday.

With many expecting tariffs or quotas (or a combination of the two) to be slapped on steel and aluminum imports (as an outcome of the 232 investigation), there’s no doubt the tension between the U.S. and China will only increase.

What’s Next For U.S.-India Ties?

President Donald Trump met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this week in Washington D.C. Our Stuart Burns wrote about Modi’s visit and what could be in store for the U.S.-India relationship throughout the Trump administration.

During a joint press statement this week, Trump stressed India’s status as the world’s largest democracy and touted himself as a friend to India.

However, he also touched on thornier issues, like trade barriers.

“I look forward to working with you Mr. Prime Minister to create jobs in our countries, to grow our economies, to create a trading relationship that is fair and reciprocal. It is important that barriers be removed to the export of U.S. goods into your markets and that we reduce our trade deficit with your country.”

After the Tragedy

The Grenfell Tower fire earlier this month could have been prevented if safe building materials had been used. Burns wrote about that and more in his piece on the tragedy.

Free Download: The June 2017 MMI Report

Zerophoto/Adobe Stock

This morning in metals news, India looks to boost its steel output, China expresses concern about the Trump administration’s Section 232 probe into aluminum and steel imports, and researchers have discovered a new, environmentally friendly way to extract copper.

India Prepares for Surge of Steel Production

India is looking to ramp up its steel output to 300 million tons, according to a report in the Press Trust of India.

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

Steel Minister Choudhary Birender Singh announced today the steps that will be taken to ramp up production. Two new policies aim to boost production to 300 million tons by 2030, according to the report.

Self-sufficiency is the objective of the new national steel policy. Singh added the government has reached out to Coal India Ltd. to assure that there will be enough fuel to support the uptick in production.

China Awaits U.S. 232 Investigation Verdicts

According to the Chinese Commerce Ministry, China is “concerned” about the impending result of the Trump administration’s Section 232 investigation into aluminum imports — one for which China has been the central focus.

In a report from Reuters, Sun Jiwen, a spokesman for the Commerce Ministry, said the basis for the investigations — national security — is too broadly defined.

Yesterday, Reuters reported Trump was growing increasingly frustrated with China, particularly in reference to its handling of North Korea.

Unsurprisingly, there are tensions and concerns on both sides of the equation (although tariffs would affect other nations and not just China). Many expect the Trump administration to announce the Section 232 findings in the near future.

A New Way to Extract Copper

MIT researchers have discovered a way to separate pure copper from sulfur-based minerals while eliminating toxic byproducts in the process.

According to a report in MIT News, the research team identified the proper temperature and chemical mixture in order to “selectively separate pure copper and other metallic trace elements from sulfur-based minerals using molten electrolysis.”

The article notes: “Copper is in increasing demand for use in electric vehicles, solar energy, consumer electronics and other energy efficiency targets. Most current copper extraction processes burn sulfide minerals in air, which produces sulfur dioxide, a harmful air pollutant that has to be captured and reprocessed, but the new method produces elemental sulfur, which can be safely reused, for example, in fertilizers. The researchers also used electrolysis to produce rhenium and molybdenum, which are often found in copper sulfides at very small levels.”

Free Download: The June 2017 MMI Report

In addition to being a fascinating scientific discovery and process, a clean way to extract an increasingly important product like copper is a great development.

Whatever the topics that are down on their respective agendas, it seems unlikely Prime Minister Narendra Modi will enjoy the same cordial relationship that he had with previous President Barack Obama.

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

President Donald Trump has shown scant interest in international leaders unless he sees a clear short-term advantage. So, whereas Saudi Arabia and Israel received the famous presidential charm, fellow NAFTA members Canada and Mexico have been more the brunt of threats and Europe has largely been treated with disdain.

India has barely featured on Trump’s radar since coming to power, beyond garnering criticism for receiving foreign aid and allegations of stealing American jobs.

So it is to be expected there will be some prickly discussion around the new president’s plans to curtail the number of H1B visas, a move the Washington Post observes would harm big Indian outsourcing companies, such as Infosys and Wipro, and deprive Silicon Valley of much-needed imported talent.

The Trump administration is also likely to raise concerns about the U.S. trade deficit with India, following a blossoming of trade during the Obama years that has resulted in India enjoying a $30 billion trade surplus with the U.S.

But one particularly thorny subject that could make its way onto the agenda is a long-running trade dispute in which India took the U.S. to the World Trade Organization (WTO) after Washington failed to comply with the WTO settlement body’s ruling over countervailing duties imposed on Indian steel imports. The ruling back in December 2014 concerning duties on hot-rolled carbon steel flat products was deemed to be in breach of WTO rules under the agreement on subsidies and countervailing measures agreement.

The U.S. has largely ignored the ruling, so the two leaders’ meeting would be a good opportunity to kickstart a review. However, so tenuous is the relationship that it will be interesting to see whether mention of steel disputes or tariff barriers make their way into media statements or the closing statements of either party.

Under Obama, India and the U.S. moved closer together and the two countries, not least as the two largest democracies in the world, have always championed their common qualities over their differences — but Trump’s view of the world is significantly different from that of the Obama administration. Beyond tackling North Korean nuclear ambitions, Washington doesn’t seem to have a Southeast Asian policy any more.

Free Download: The June 2017 MMI Report

The leaders held a friendly joint press conference in the Rose Garden on Monday, during which Trump called himself a “true friend” to India and touted the two nations’ “shared commitment to democracy.” He also added that the bond between the two countries “has never been stronger.”

He also made remarks in reference to the U.S.’s trade deficit with India.

“I look forward to working with you Mr. Prime Minister to create jobs in our countries, to grow our economies, to create a trading relationship that is fair and reciprocal,” Trump said Monday. “It is important that barriers be removed to the export of U.S. goods into your markets and that we reduce our trade deficit with your country.”

However, quite where India fits in the new administration’s view of the world is unclear. Hopefully the leaders meeting this week will bring a little more clarity in the future.

photosoup/Adobe Stock

It’s the largest coal miner in the world, and accounts for at least 80% of India’s coal production.

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

Now, faced with India’s onward march on the path of renewable energy, Coal India Ltd (CIL) finds itself stuttering. So much so that it has decided to shutter as many as 37 coal mines by March of next year.

India’s Coal Ministry, in a review meeting with CIL and its subsidiaries, took special note of the fact that a substantial number of mines had not been able to recover costs in the form of even salaries paid to the workers. It then directed CIL’s arms to conduct a detailed study of such mines and report on action taken.

CIL also explained away the decision, saying its subsidiaries undertake an annual exercise to determine profit- and loss-making mines for comparative study of performance. The decision has been met, predictably, with protests from local labor unions. If and when the mines are shuttered, it would help the company save about $124 million. The mines make up about 9% of the total number of mines operated by CIL.

CIL is not alone in facing the challenge represented by the growing renewable energy sector.

One estimate by the Energy and Resources Institute predicts if the cost of renewable energy and storage continue to fall, India may phase out coal power completely by 2050. Both solar and wind energy prices have been steadily decreasing over the last three years.

In 2016-17, India added over 14,000 megawatts of new renewable energy power compared to almost 7,000 megawatts of new coal power capacity.

But green energy is not the only new challenge coal mines face.

Read more

Macro photo of a piece of lead ore

The International Lead and Zinc Study Group (ILZSG) released its findings for June, showing global refined lead metal demand exceeded supply during the first four months of the year.

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!

In addition, the ILZSG report revealed total reported stock levels increased during that same time frame. An increase in worldwide lead mine production, to the tune of 13% year-over-year (compared to the first four months of 2016), is primarily the result of increased production in China.

Furthermore, a global refined lead metal output increase of 8.4% can be attributed to India, China and the United States.

The ILZSG report states: “A sharp rise in net imports was the main influence on an increase in US apparent demand of 22.8%. There was also a strong rise in Chinese apparent usage of 16.4%. European demand increased by a more modest 1.5% with overall global demand up by 11.15%.”

How will lead and base metals fare in 2017? You can find a more in-depth lead 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:

Zerophoto/Adobe Stock

A new front seems to have opened up in India’s steel wars.

Only this time, the country seems to be fighting for its steel companies to be allowed to sell its steel in a foreign market.

India has complained to the World Trade Organization (WTO) that the U.S. had failed to drop anti-subsidy duties on certain Indian steel products. The move comes on the heels of India itself having imposed anti-dumping duty on 47 steel products from six nations in May.

According to the Indian government, the U.S. had not kept its promise of an April 2016 deadline to comply with a WTO ruling that faulted it for imposing countervailing duties on hot-rolled carbon steel flat products from India.

In December 2014, the WTO ruled against the U.S.’s move to impose high duty on imports of certain Indian steel products. The world body said the high duty by the U.S. was inconsistent with various provisions of the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures.

The U.S. sought time until the April 2016 deadline to comply with the ruling. Realizing that the deadline had passed away without any action on part of the U.S. authorities, India has now requested the WTO dispute consultations with the U.S. regarding U.S. compliance.

Some experts say the U.S. will have to amend its domestic norms to comply with the WTO’s verdict on countervailing duties.

In May, India imposed anti-dumping duty on products from six nations — China, Japan, South Korea, Brazil, Russia and Indonesia — to protect its own industry from cheap imports.

Read more

Editor’s Note: This is the second of two posts — the first of which ran yesterday — from our Sohrab Darabshaw on renewable energy in India. 

India saw nearly $10 billion invested, both in 2015 and in 2016, in renewable energy projects. Last year, $1.9 billion of green bonds were issued. India’s solar targets alone need $100 billion of debt.

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

Posting in the Bloomberg View opinion section, columnist Mihir Sharma, however, struck a slightly skeptical note.

“India is not like China, or the U.S., or Australia or Germany when it comes to meeting its Paris pledges,” he wrote. “In India, hundreds of millions of people still live without electricity — a big part of what keeps them desperately poor. India also has a shrunken manufacturing sector, partly because electricity is so expensive (relatively) and its supply so variable. No democratically accountable Indian government can ever favor an international agreement over fixing these two problems.”

Sharma added coal “looks bad” in India at the moment because “its economy is struggling and because it is so services-intensive. Over the past few years, coal plants have used less and less of their capacity as growth has slowed.”

But, if India’s economy does take off, Prime Minister Narendra Modi might indeed be faced with such a choice.

Read more

illustrez-vous/Adobe Stock

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.

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

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