LME

Windsor/Adobe Stock

This morning in metals news, copper hits a two-year high, economic signals in July for China were a bit of a mixed bag and the London Metal Exchange continues a balancing act between tradition and change.

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

Copper Reaches Highest Point in 2 Years

It’s been a big year for copper.

Copper reached a two-year peak on Monday, partially a result of solid manufacturing data in China, Reuters reported.

LME copper reached $6,431 per ton, its highest since May 2015.

Construction Up in China

Speaking of China, July saw a dip in factory growth but a surge in construction, Reuters reported.

China’s Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) remained above 50, however, as the Chinese government spent money on construction, fueling demand for building materials.

The Chinese steel industry, for example, had its strongest month of growth since April 2016.

Changing Times at the LME

Matthew Chamberlain became the boss of the world-famous London Metal Exchange at age 34.

A lot has changed for the LME, which was founded in 1877.

The exchange was sold to HKEX in 2012, and is currently engaging in efforts to bring back volumes, The Guardian reports.

The so-called “ring” where LME traders do their work is governed by a set of long-standing rules, like the prohibition on chewing gum. According to the report, Chamberlain says those rules aren’t likely to change.

However, he also acknowledges that the LME needs to be prepared to deal with changing demands — for instance, for cobalt and lithium to be used in electric car batteries.

Free Download: The July 2017 MMI Report

Aluminum may have been the best-performing metal on the LME this year, but copper is making a good showing, too, with the price hitting a 4 1/2 month peak last Friday.

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

Supporting the price earlier this year was a long strike at Chile’s Escondida, the world’s largest copper mine. However, as that dispute was settled workers contracts have come up for renewal at other mines in Chile and Peru, causing if not out-right strikes then the fear of supply disruption.

Workers at Chile’s Zaldivar mine came out on strike after talks failed while nearby Centinelais is also in negotiations with the threat of strike action.

According to Reuters together the two mines produced 340,000 tons of copper in 2016. Unionized workers in Peru, the world’s second-biggest copper producer, began a nationwide strike on Wednesday protesting against labor reforms, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, recent data from China show the economy picked up in the second quarter and the expectation that the world’s largest copper consumer is likely to hit growth targets for 2017 set earlier this year have only added fuel to the fire in supporting prices.

Read more

misunseo/Adobe Stock

This morning in metals news, the LME launched a bid to acquire a piece of the over-the-counter gold market, Chilean miners are set to go on strike and the Liberty House group has purchased two more steel mills from Indian firm Tata.

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

LME Launches Gold Contract

The LME’s new LMEprecious spot contract saw more than two tons of gold traded in its first day, Reuters reported.

According to Reuters, the suite of gold and silver contracts was formed via a group of backers, including big banks. The contracts launched at 0000 GMT Monday.

By the close of business Monday, approximately $91.3 million in gold had been traded on the LMEprecious spot contract, according to exchange data cited by Reuters.

“LMEprecious has been developed in response to market demand and in close consultation with key precious metals stakeholders,” the LMEprecious page on LME’s website reads. “Offering daily and monthly futures for both gold and silver, LMEprecious delivers greater choice for market participants, modernising the gold and silver markets to better reflect the needs of global players in precious metals markets.”

Strikes Pave Way for Higher Prices

With Chilean miners’ recent vote to go on strike, the price of copper will get a boost upward.

According to Reuters, a buildup of inventories since late June came to a stop and miners voted to strike on Tuesday, both factors which contributed to a rise in the price of copper.

LME copper was up 0.4% to $5,845.50, according to the report. However, an expected slowdown in Chinese economic growth and the strengthening of the U.S. dollar are factors behind why many analysts think the copper price will fall.

“Our forecasts suggest that most prices will fall from here,” Caroline Bain, a Capital Economics analyst, told Reuters.

Tata Deals Hartlepool Steel Mills

The Liberty House group purchased two of Indian company Tata’s steel mills, according to a report in The Telegraph.

According to the report, Liberty House signed a provisional deal to purchase the mills, located in Hartlepool, England, which produce heavy-duty 42-inch and 84-inch steel pipes used in the oil and gas industries.

Free Sample Report: Our Annual Metal Buying Outlook

According to the report, Tata will retain a third Hartlepool mill, where 270 are employed and make 20-inch tubes.

Last March, Liberty House bought two Scottish steel mills Tata was preparing to shutter.

A Department of Commerce hearing is underway Thursday morning on the subject of the Section 232 investigation into aluminum imports. qingwa/Adobe Stock

This morning in metals news, the Department of Commerce’s Section 232 hearing on aluminum is in progress this morning, the LME is expected to cut its trading fees and London copper rose Thursday as a result of data indicating a global supply deficit.

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

Section 232 Hearing on Aluminum Underway This Morning

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s hearing regarding its ongoing Section 232 investigation into aluminum imports started at 8 a.m. CDT Thursday.

Those interested in watching can tune into the live streams on the Department of Commerce’s Facebook or YouTube pages. After a brief break, the hearing is reconvening as of 9:59 a.m. CDT and is scheduled to continue until just after 11 a.m. CDT.

As mentioned earlier this morning, Chinese overcapacity continues to be the primary talking point.

The hearing started with testimony from: Kentucky State Rep. Jim Gooch Jr.; Li Xie, director of Export Division One, People’s Republic of China, Ministry of Commerce; Talal M. Al Kaissi, representative from the Trade & Commercial Office from the Embassy of the U.A.E.; Lurii Stegnii, deputy trade representative from the Trade Representation of the Russian Federation in the United States; and Gerd Gotz, director general of European Aluminum.

Gooch Jr.’s state is home to Century Aluminum, which operates two smelters in the Bluegrass State (one in Hawesville, the other in Sebree).

LME Planning to Cut Trading Fees

The LME is planning on cutting its trading fees in the hopes of boosting volumes, Reuters reported Thursday.

According to the report, a 35% fee hike in January 2015 is a major reason cited by those in the industry to explain declining LME volumes.

Overall volumes in the five months to the end of May this year fell more than 5% from the same five-month period in 2016, according to the article.

LME Copper Ticks Up

LME copper rose Thursday, driven by data showing a global supply deficit, according to Reuters.

According to the data, the global world refined copper market showed a deficit of 5,000 tons in March, Reuters reported. That figure stands in stark contrast with the 102,000-ton surplus reported for February.

Free Download: The June 2017 MMI Report

Meanwhile, three-month LME copper was down 0.6%, according to Reuters.

Physical delivery premiums are a pretty accurate measure of primary aluminum metal supply. They reflect the balance between suppliers’ aspirations for the highest price and buyers’ determination for the opposite.

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

The setting of physical delivery premiums is, therefore, a function of supply and demand — or, more accurately, the availability of physical metal in the marketplace.

So when Metal Bulletin announced that third-quarter main Japanese port (MJP) premiums have fallen 7.4% quarter on quarter and settled for the July-September period at $118-119/ton, from $128/ton in the second quarter, it supported anecdotal evidence that, despite supply disruption from Australia and New Zealand, the Asia-Pacific market remains well supplied.

Source: Reuters

Credit for this — if “credit” is the correct term — goes in part to China’s failure to sufficiently implement supply-side reform of its aluminum sector.

The aluminum price rose strongly in the first quarter with the expectation that Beijing’s announcements regarding curtailment of excess aluminum capacity would be vigorously implemented this year.

Read more

Windsor/Adobe Stock

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.

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

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.

Similar to other base metals, tin prices have started a gradual decline, starting from the beginning of June.

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

A market analysis of tin prices and trading volumes suggests a more bearish scenario for tin.

The chart below shows both a sharp drop in tin prices accompanied by heavier selling volume, also known as a “selling climax,” and may be perceived as a signal of a bearish market to follow.  

Source: Fast Markets

According to the International Tin Research Institute (ITRI), the fluctuation of tin stocks has varied based upon tin prices in the market. Indonesian exports remain robust, with an increase of 10% in May compared to April. However, Myanmar tin exports decreased slightly again in May. This reduction of Myanmar output is expected to continue until the end of this year, as analyzed in detail in our monthly forecast reports.  

Chinese VAT removal could lead to price convergence

Tin prices may also be influenced by the approval of a new Chinese policy that will directly impact  the largest tin-producing company in China, Yunnan Tin Company.

This policy consists of the removal of the valued-added tax (VAT) structure, which taxes imports of tin concentrates and was supposed to provide a tax rebate of 17% on exports.

The catch? Exporters were never able to collect the rebate, so they ended up buying tin exclusively from domestic sources.

According to ITRI, by removing the VAT rebate scheme, the new policy will likely cause exports to increase and prices to rebalance between the London Metal Exchange (LME) and China.  In other words, the two prices will likely converge — China’s may come up and the LME price may fall.

We believe tin prices will move close to support levels — and may eventually fall below this limit.

Free Download: The June 2017 MMI Report

Considering the current situation and the sideways trend of commodities, tin should be analyzed closely this month.

Tin prices continue to suffer with Chinese competition and Shanghai trading counteracting limited supply on the London Metal Exchange (LME).

Generally speaking, limited supply of a commodity should translate to a rise in price — this has not been the case for tin.

In a recent opinion piece for Bloomberg, Shelley Goldberg, founder and principal at Invest-with-Purpose, writes that despite tin inventory at LME warehouses reaching 20-year lows, prices are also down, to the tune of more than 5% since the start 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!

The reason? Goldberg writes that exchange trading competition from China is to blame.

Goldberg writes: “Low inventory levels have also historically resulted in an increase in both volume and open interest; however, for LME tin they have been falling, too. Average LME daily tin volumes this year slipped by 14 percent from January to April, compared with the same period a year earlier. On an annual basis they fell 7 percent in 2016 and 31 percent in 2015. Open interest has also been declining, totaling 16,152 lots at the end of April, compared with 22,563 lots a year earlier.”

Reconciling the SFE and LME

She added that LME is no longer the exclusive exchange for data and information on the metals markets, as the Shanghai Futures Exchange is now challenging its monopoly.

Goldberg concludes: “The bottom line is that attempting to arbitrage LME and Shanghai tin is not as easy as it may seem (different currencies, contract sizes, terms, and so on). But suffice it to say, assessing the tin markets from a more global perspective will undoubtedly provide a better perspective not only on the tin market, but on the world’s economy.”

How will tin fare in 2017? You can find a more in-depth tin 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:

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.

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

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.

What’s up — or should we say, down — with zinc?

Source: Fast Markets

Together with other base metals, zinc has experienced a downtrend during this past week, reaching a seven-month low on Wednesday. Since then, it has recovered slightly up to $2,540/metric ton.

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

Zinc is moving together with commodities and industrial metals, both of which have experienced a weaker start to June. These weaknesses began in the beginning of 2017, as zinc prices failed to reach new highs, turning into a sideways market.

Other metals, such as tin and lead, have also experienced lower prices during the first week of June, which could be a signal of a general trend reversal. We do not believe zinc will succeed in surpassing its previous $3,000/mt upper limit.   

In fact, zinc could be at the start of a downtrend.

Read more