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Gold prices extended their best start to a year in more than 30 years this month, jumping 5.1% to 82 amid a broad precious metals rally.

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Silver has mostly caught up to its investment metal cousin, too, thanks to its dual use as an industrial and precious metal. Silver miners are seeing their stock prices increase as supply has been constrained by recent mine shutdowns.

Global-Precious-Metals_Chart_May-2016_FNLAs with most of the metals we track, China is the biggest consumer and biggest producer of gold. So, the news that China’s central bank and customs service will allow companies that have “frequent imports and exports” of gold and gold products to apply for a single permit that can be used in as many as 12 shipments was welcome for both producers and consumers. The trial to simplify the rules takes effect June 1 and applies to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Qingdao, Nanjing and Shenzhen, the bank said in a statement.

Aside from loosened regulations, the investment metals are sitting in a good, fundamental place. The safe haven status of both gold and silver continues to help their prices as the Federal Reserve again showed no stomach for interest rate increases this month.

As my colleague, Raul de Frutos, recently wrote, this has led to the weakest U.S. dollar in 15 months and sent investors flocking to silver, gold and even the platinum group metals. That’s right, 15-month high for gold, 15-month low for the U.S. dollar index. The correlation, gold-to-dollar, is way more reliable that any physical demand indicator of gold.

It seems as if the Fed’s dovishness is catching on globally, too. Japan was expected to implement a fresh round of stimulus to weaken the yen to combat low inflation. However The Bank of Japan kept interest rates unchanged this month.

Compare Prices With The April 2016 MMI Report

There is little sign that investors will stop flocking to safe havens and with strong consumer demand in automotive, electronics it’s difficult to see an end to this bull run.

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{Comments Off on Global Precious MMI Up 5% as Gold, Silver Shine as Safe Havens}

The broad commodities rally even helped our normally moribund Renewables MMI increase at least a little (2%) this month.

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The sub-index is still range-bound but it’s, at least, in the upper portion of the range we’ve seen it inhabit for the last year.

Renewables_Chart_May-2016_FNL

The steel plate products in the IndX were mainly responsible for the increase. Magnetic rare earth electric motor metal neodymium and silicon actually saw their prices decrease this month.

Rather than bore you with my regular disclaimer on how difficult it is to gauge what exactly is going on at the U.S. consumer level with renewables due to rebates and subsidies, let’s talk about recent initiatives that could move the needle on solar.

The Department of Energy recently announced $25 million in available funding through an effort called Enabling Extreme Real-Time Grid Integration of Solar Energy (ENERGISE) to help software developers, solar companies, and utilities accelerate the integration of solar energy into the grid.

How to Capture Solar Power?

It’s been a long-term gripe from many in the power generation business that solar, at least here in the U.S., has been great for homeowners and businesses using crystalline silicon photovoltaic panels to feed energy directly into their appliances, laptops, lights and TVs, but much more difficult to transfer it back into the nation’s grid.

$25 million might seem like a lot, but it’s actually a rather small sum considering how long this problem has confounded some of the greatest engineering minds out there.

The initiative specifically seeks to develop software and hardware platforms for utility distribution system planning and operations that integrate sensing, communication, and data analytics to help utilities manage solar and other distributed energy resources on the grid, Its products will, supposedly, be data-driven, easily scaled-up from prototypes, and capable of real-time monitoring and control.

We’ve been promised similar systems in the past so we’re not holding our breath or anything. Still, the expected 10-15 solutions developed with the new funding will be field-tested by utilities to demonstrate their performance and value in real-world operating environments so there’s some rigor to the program.

Compare Prices With The April 2016 MMI Report

As always, we’ll monitor what comes out of this program and how the solutions could impact metals markets for products such as steel plate and silicon.

What This Means for Metal Buyers

While the broad rally has visited steel, the Renewables MMI is still rangebound.

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{Comments Off on Renewables MMI Increases 2%, DoE Puts Up $25 Million for Grid Research}