US Stimulus Package and its Potential Impact on Metals Markets

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Now that the pies, cakes and goodies are well gone and new year’s resolutions come to the fore, I relish the couple of weeks off I just had to re-group and re-think how global sourcing and trading professionals might want to look at metals markets for 2009. When I think about 2008, a few words come to mind: frenzied, extraordinary and unpredictable. It was a roller coaster of a year. And though price trends are something we constantly blog about (and will be formally posting as predictions for 2009), I can’t help but take a few minutes to ponder what’s next. And whether you are sipping a cafe au lait from a cafe in Paris or an amber local brew at an English pub, no matter where you go, people are talking about the economy.

And though this blog and our company dedicates itself to global metals markets, I can’t help but think that perhaps the single most important development for 2009 will be President-elect Obama’s fiscal stimulus package introduced in the early days of this month. And though that sounds highly US-centric, this recession has put the death knell on the notion of “de-coupling” emerging markets from developed markets. Welcome to the global economy. Stimulate the US economy, and perhaps momentum can push other economies into positive territory. So during the early parts of this year, we will take a more policy-oriented view of this stimulus package and other key pieces of legislation impacting metals markets and offer insight as to what it will mean. Stuart has covered some of this already by describing the busy goings-on within the nuclear industry here.

In broad terms, the stimulus package is designed to create or save three million jobs and will be delivered primarily in three ways: tax cuts, aid to state governments and funding in five areas. The five areas identified for additional funding include:

Traditional infrastructure
School construction
Energy efficiency
Broadband access
Health information technology
According to this Politico.com article, the description of the stimulus package looks a little different, “The package is expected to contain funding for states, with a focus on infrastructure projects, and tax cuts. It is also likely to include an effort to expand food stamp and unemployment benefits, and Obama’s economic team is looking at ways to help families keep their health insurance coverage when the breadwinner is out of work.” In addition, the package is expected to fund roads and bridges, energy conservation, military construction and some improvements in the electric grid. The health care information technology and broadband access appear to be other areas that Obama would like to see addressed.How each of these will actually shake out in the legislative process is anyone’s guess. Energy policy becomes the big one impacting metals markets. If Congress passes a climate change bill (which many people believe Congress will to respond to Asian and European cap-and-trade schemes) it would require a lot more nuclear energy to move the US away from coal and oil. That climate change bill in conjunction with the economic stimulus package will be of interest to many manufacturers and participants in metals markets. MetalMiner will closely follow and report on specific policy initiatives.

–Lisa Reisman

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