Steel

Shares of U.S. steelmakers made an spectacular run this year, making the steel industry one of the hottest investing opportunities. Stock investors poured money into steel stocks as domestic prices rose.

US Steel (in Blue) and AK Steel (in red) stock prices. Source: MetalMiner analysis of stockcharts.com data

U.S. Steel (in Blue) and AK Steel (in red) stock prices. Source: MetalMiner analysis of stockcharts.com data.

However, since August, we’ve seen some downward pressure on flat-rolled steel prices with hot-rolled-coil falling near $70 ton from it’s peak in June.

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That caused shares of companies like U.S. Steel and AK Steel to fall more than 40% in just a matter of weeks. Notice how the price trends of shares of both companies are almost identical.

HRC prices correcting since August. Source: MetalMiner analysis of stockcharts.com

HRC prices correcting since August. Source: MetalMiner analysis of stockcharts.com data.

While steel prices continue to weaken, so will the stock prices of U.S. steelmakers. Investors looking to buy shares of steel companies might want to wait until steel prices make a comeback, if they do, that is.

China’s steel industry will see demand drop even further in 2017 and the Federal Reserve left rates unchanged yesterday.

CISA: Chinese Steel Demand Will Fall More

China’s steel demand is likely to drop for a third year in a row, an industry official said on Thursday, as mills in the world’s top producer focus on reducing capacity.

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China’s crude steel consumption slipped 1.9% from January to July and there may be a slight drop for the year, said Wang Liqun, vice chairman of the China Iron and Steel Association (CISA).

Fed Leaves Rates Unchanged Again

U.S. stocks marched higher on Thursday, with the Nasdaq hitting a record intraday high, as investors cheered the Federal Reserve‘s decision to not raise interest rates yesterday.

While the Fed said the risks to economic outlook were roughly “balanced”, it left rates unchanged for want of “further evidence of continued progress”. Inflation remains below the central bank’s target of 2 percent and members saw room for improvement in the labor market.

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Even if the Fed raises rates at its last meeting of the year in December, many are worried that Central Banks toolkit for hitting inflation targets is ineffective.

Metal prices bottomed out earlier this year and ever since we are seeing rising prices. However, was that the ultimate bottom after a five years of a bear market? Are metal prices set to continue running higher in 2017?

Industrial metals ETF flattens in Q3

The industrial metals ETF flattens in Q3. An end to rising prices? Source: MetalMiner analysis of @StockCharts.com data.

These are questions we can’t answer, but they will be answered moving forward. Although industrial metals entered a bull market this year, we have yet to see how long this rising market will last. In Q3 we already witnessed some weaknesses with many base metals struggling to build on this year’s gains.

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We see three critical factors to watch as we move in 2017. These factors will determine the sustainability of this year’s bull market:

Supply Cuts

Some production capacity was closed this year to fight low prices and the market now seems more balanced than last year. These supply cuts helped push metal prices higher, but the problem is producers might now have enough incentives to restart production. A good example is the zinc market. Zinc prices rose sharply this year thanks to supply cuts, but now markets wonder if Glencore and China’s zinc miners will start upping their production to reap the rewards of higher prices. Read more

The industrial metals complex saw prices slip nearly across the board in August as volatility
returned to stock markets and investors lost confidence in central banks’ ability to increase
growth.

MM-IndX_TRENDS_Chart_September2016_FNL-TOPVALUE100

Even the vaunted Global Precious MMI, which has enjoyed large gains this year due to safe
haven status, dropped this month. It experienced a 4.5% loss. Our Construction MMI and the Grain-Oriented Electrical Steel MMI indexes saw increases this month, but every other sub-index either saw a 2-5% loss or held flat.

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This was somewhat expected as metals such as steel and aluminum remain in a global oversupply situation and metal prices don’t move in a straight line. They zig-zag. Our metal price benchmarking service has thousands of transaction prices to reference as evidence of that.This could be merely a one-month correction or it might signal that the weakness in metals markets is finally denting the bull run of strong price performers such as gold and platinum. Stay tuned next month for more.

There appears to be an almost universal expectation that iron ore prices will start to retreat soon, after surging some 62% through April. They have since eased back but are still up 28% on the year.

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Without doubt, much of iron ore’s gains in 2016 have been driven by strong demand from China, with imports up 9.3% to 669.65 million metric tons in the first eight months of the year from a year ago. But prices in Qingdao lost 5.8% in the seven sessions through Wednesday. That was the longest run of daily declines since March and while steel output remains robust, questions are again being asked how much longer prices can remain north of $55 per mt as yet more supply comes on stream. According to the MetalMiner index, finished steel prices have eased this month.

Iron Ore Output

You would expect the miners to refute this and, sure enough, in a Bloomberg report, Vale SA and Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. said that the impact of the new output won’t be as severe as expected and will see the $50 per mt level holding, but banking analysts are not so sure with Westpac saying last month rising supply will drive prices below last year’s lowest point of $38.30, while Citigroup expects an average of $45/mt next year. Read more

The Commerce Department placed initial anti-dumping tariffs on imports of carbon and alloy steel cut-to-length plate (CTL plate) from Brazil, South Africa, and Turkey late Friday.

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For the purpose of an anti-dumping investigation, dumping occurs when a foreign company sells a product in the U.S. at less than its fair value.

n the Brazil investigation, Commerce preliminarily found that dumping has occurred by mandatory respondents, Companhia Siderurgica Nacional and Usinas Siderurgicas de Minas Gerais SA, at a preliminary dumping margin of 74.52%. The dumping margin for the mandatory respondents was based on adverse facts available (AFA) as a result of their failure to cooperate in the investigation. Commerce assigned a preliminary dumping margin of 74.52% for all other producers/exporters in Brazil. Read more

China is planning a bailout of sorts for Bohai Steel Group and standards organization ASTM International wants to develop certifications for commercial space flight.

A New Lifeline for Bohai Steel

Financial authorities in Tianjin, China, plan to convert a portion of debt-stricken Bohai Steel Group‘s liabilities into bonds, according to rescue plans drawn up recently, the online financial magazine Caixin reported on Monday.

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According to the plan, high-quality assets from Bohai Steel will be restructured to form a new company, which will take on 50 billion Chinese yuan of the total debt. Officials met last week to discuss a comprehensive restructuring plan for the firm, which has liabilities of $28.78 billion (192 billion yuan) from 105 creditors.

ASTM Seeks To Develop Private Space Travel Standards

ASTM International will host an organizational meeting to potentially create a new technical committee that develops voluntary consensus standards for commercial spaceflight.

Free Download: The September 2016 MMI Report

This meeting comes in part as a result of the updated U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015 (SPACE Act). The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) Standards Working Group is recommending the organization of the new group.

Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump recently said he would scrap some controversial EPA plans and rules and allow more drilling for oil and gas on federal lands. Steel companies applauded the Senate’s passage of a new water reclamation bill.

Trump Would Scrap Clean Power Plan

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump released details Thursday of his proposed energy policy, which includes scrapping the Environmental Protection Agency‘s controversial Clean Power Plan and Waters of the United States rule.

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He also promised to open more federal lands and waters to oil and gas development.

Steel Companies Praise Water Bill

The American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) recently applauded the U.S. Senate’s passage, by a vote of 95-3, of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which will authorize more than $10 million worth of projects to improve navigation, replace and restore aging locks and dams, and provide aid to Flint, Mich. and other communities in need of replacing pipes, sewers and other drinking water infrastructure.

She’s been described as the “green lady,” and The Guardian once called her the “woman who loves garbage.”

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Veena Sahajwalla, a native of Mumbai, is the director of the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology at the University of New South Wales in Australia

Last weekend, Sahajwalla was on one of her many visits to India, where she addressed a high profile seminar at the Scrap Recycling Conference: Emerging Markets. There, she told delegates about her pioneering effort in making “green steel” from, guess what? End-of-life rubber tires.

Polymer Injection Technology (PIT), a technology that Sahajwalla invented, can be used to recycle tires to replace coal and coke in the making of steel. While the two-day conference saw almost 300 delegates from the scrap and steel industry confab on issues ranging from the world business of recycling to automobile recycling in India, Veena’s presentation seemed to have created the most buzz.

The Indo-Australian scientist insists that her technology could be the answer to the growing global problem of disposal of waste tires globally. The United States, for example, was the largest producer of waste tires at about 290 million a year, but now China and India are giving the U.S. a run for its money because of increasing sales of new vehicles.

Automobile tires are made from a mix of natural and synthetic rubber, and various structural reinforcing elements including metal wires and chemical additives. The PIT introduces a modification into the conventional manufacturing process for steel. The technology precisely controls the injection of granulated waste tire material in conventional electric arc furnace (EAF) steelmaking, partially replacing non-renewable coke. Tire rubber, like coke, is a good source of hydrocarbons, which means they can be transformed in EAF steelmaking.

New South Wales University researched the replacement technology for years and, today, millions of waste tires are being transformed into high quality steel in Australia.

Recently, the same university also showcased a pilot micro-factory that safely transforms toxic e-waste into high-value metal alloys, offering a low-cost solution to what to do with the millions of phones, computers and other e-waste products plaguing India. Sahajwalla was involved in this project, too.

She told the Asian Scientist Magazine recently that a ton of mobile phones (about 6,000 handsets) contained about 130 kilograms of copper, 3.5 kg of silver, 340 grams of gold and 140 grams of palladium, worth tens of thousands of dollars. Sahajwalla explained that she used precisely controlled high-temperature reactions to produce copper and tin-based alloys from tossed out printed circuit boards (PCBs) while simultaneously destroying toxins.

All this is sweet music to the ears of Indian recycling industry. The country is the world’s second-largest mobile phone market, and the fifth-largest producer of e-waste, discarding roughly 1.9 million metric tons of such waste every year. Veena is confident that the PIT can solve India’s waste tyres problem.

India’s Recycled Metal Market

While the global recycled metal market is estimated to touch $476.2 billion by 2024, India’s scrap recycling industry is set to register an annual growth of 11.4% until the year 2020, according to a recent report by Frost & Sullivan. India’s annual scrap consumption was 20.40 mmt; it imports 6.48 mmt of scrap, and is the world’s third-largest importer.

But India’s traditional metals, ferrous and non-ferrous, recycling rate is about 20%, less than the world average. For some years now, the unorganized sector has been demanding that the Indian government accord it “industry” status and implement a metal recycling policy with a view to ensuring fast-track growth.

India has the potential to become one of largest car recycling regions, and the demand for policy was something that was even discussed at the two-day conference here. The Indian government recently proposed offering consumers an incentive of about $375 (almost 25,133 Indian Rupees) for a passenger car handed in to be scrapped in the hopes of boosting recycling rates.

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A few months ago, the state-run scrap metal trading firm MSTC Ltd. signed an agreement with the Mumbai-based Mahindra Intertrade, a part of the Mahindra Group, to set up an auto shredding and recycling plant in India. The joint venture will help meet India’s annual ferrous scrap usage requirement of about 6 mmt.

U.S. steel companies applauded as tariffs were upheld on hot-rolled steel flat products and the London Metal Exchange took a hit when it had to move its open-outcry trading to another location when its new office wasn’t ready this summer.

ITC Upholds Hot-Rolled Steel Tariffs

The U.S. International Trade Commission handed another victory to American steelmakers on Monday, affirming most of the recent anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties on hot-rolled flat steel imports from Australia, Brazil, Britain, Japan, the Netherlands, South Korea and Turkey.

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The commission rejected anti-subsidy duties of about 6% against hot-rolled steel from Turkey, but affirmed anti-dumping duties of about 6 to 7% against Turkish-made hot-rolled steel. The rest were all upheld.

LME Trading Move Hit Volumes Hard by Move

The temporary relocation of open outcry trading at the London Metal Exchange (LME) to a disaster recovery site due to problems at its new offices hit volumes hard during the already quiet summer months, brokering sources said.

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For all contracts traded on the LME, volumes fell more than 9% year-on-year in August to 12.18 million lots, after a drop of nearly 18% in July. Volumes for aluminum and copper fell nearly 22% and seven percent respectively in August from the same period a year ago.