Our May MMI Report, tracking ten major metal price points, came out this week.
As always, the MMI reflects the global market (BLS indexes by default only include US data, but that may or may not be representative of underlying global price trends) and metal prices often depend upon the underlying demand for various industries (steel prices relate to construction industry activity, for instance).
Most of our readers are buyers of aluminum, copper, stainless steel, raw steels, rare earths, renewables and grain-oriented electrical steel… but some go for the VERY minor metals.
For these special users, we provide the fictitious MMI. Serving all your needs for adamantium, Rearden Metal, kryptonite ore and vibranium. We recently had to move unobtainium off the list because it’s information was just too hard to obtain to keep listing.
These highly rare metals are difficult to source and procure. Some of them haven’t even had deposits discovered since the 1960s. Kryptonite ore isn’t even native to Earth. Still, like all metals they are subject to market forces, so here’s what’s affecting each super-rare metal’s market.
If you’ve seen “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” you know that vibranium is the metal Captain America’s shield is made out of. It’s a rare, naturally occurring metal that possesses the ability to absorb all vibrations in the vicinity as well as all kinetic energy directed at it.
The problem with the vibranium market is similar to the one we’ve seen with its real world cousins, the rare earths. One nation controls almost all production of vibranium, the African nation of Wakanda. As most production of rare earths comes from China, export quotas, over/underproduction and other measures have allowed China to distort the global market to cement its grip on the magnet and battery elements for some time now.
Wakanda is no different in the make-believe Marvel universe. They likely have a version of “60 Minutes” running stories on how dangerous the Wakandan monopoly on rare earths truly is. Ones that call for more domestic vibranium mines and even exploration in pristine Antarctica.
Because vibranium is so rare and useful, it’s ALWAYS in demand and the Vibranium MMI stayed where it’s been ever since we began charting it, a rating of 100 with exceptionally strong demand for all grades. Defense contractors such as Stark Industries are particularly interested in it, these days, for its demand in building giant Hulkbusting armored suits.
Rearden Metal MMI
Useful in building stronger-than-steel bridges and just about anything, the amazing alloy known as Rearden Metal in Ayn Rand’s classic novel “Atlas Shrugged” is touted as a wonder element that can make anything stronger while at the same time lighter and more durable.
Sounds kind of like the new lightweight nano-steel alloys regularly followed in our Automotive MMI. The difference between those alloys and Dagny Taggart’s favorite bridge material, though, is production. One of the key arguments of the novel is that steel magnate Hank Rearden patented and controls the entire supply-chain of production for his metal. Even being forced to sell his ore mines to Orren Boyle couldn’t stop Rearden from controlling all production as only Rearden knew the recipe to create the alloy.
This is a situation similar to last year’s nickel price surge when traders, customers and stainless steel producers all rushed to buy and stockpile nickel ore when it was announced that Indonesia would institute a raw ore export ban and begin smelting its nickel ore at home. Those concerns turned out to be overblown when the Philippines replaced much of the ore that Chinese nickel pig iron producers lost from Indonesia, but not before they drove up the price of nickel.
The blip seen in our Rearden Metal MMI is when control of mining and production was lost. As Boyle soon went out of business due to poor management, Rearden quickly regained control of the entire supply chain and demand remained high for renewable-powered Galt engines, railroad bridges and bracelets.
Once again visiting the Marvel Universe, adamantium is a nigh-indestructible alloy. Before molding, the components of the alloy are kept in separate batches, typically in blocks of resin.
Adamantium is prepared by melting the blocks together, mixing the components while the resin evaporates. The alloy must then be cast within eight minutes. Adamantium’s extremely stable molecular structure prevents it from being further molded even when it’s exposed to extreme temperatures.
The character Wolverine’s claws and skeleton are the most famous examples of adamantium use in the films and comic books. Because adamantium is so rare, some of its components only occur naturally near volcanic activity, it is so expensive that even its obvious uses in defense are rarely attempted. The supply is so low that demand in our Adamantium MMI has fallen off so much that, except for that price spike last June when a strange new supply was discovered in Japan, other less rare metals are always substituted for it, just as other suitable metals were used in automotive exhaust systems when platinum prices are high last spring and summer due to a mining strike in major producer nation, South Africa.
I wonder where that supply in Japan came from?
Extra-Global Kryptonite Ore MMI
Our final ultra-rare element isn’t even naturally occurring on Earth, it’s fragments of the planet Krypton, birthplace of Kal-el, AKA Superman.
Kryptonite, brought to us by DC Comics, is a simple ore spread across the universe by the detonation and destruction of Krypton. There are whole asteroids of it and chunks of the stuff have even made their way to our planet.
It nullifies Superman’s powers which are derived from the energy of Earth’s yellow sun. If Krypton actually existed, Kryptonite would likely be as abundant as iron ore, the input dragging down our Raw Steels MMI as miners BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto Group and Vale SA are all driving down the price (even though BHP finally cut back on production last week).
Lex Luthor is the only one in the DCU driving any demand of Kryptonite (he’s a subscriber to the Fictitious Metals MMI). Even a lowly ore can be valuable if there isn’t enough supply of it, but don’t expect its price to rise much with a healthy surplus.
Not only have metals fueled the standard of living today, but they’ve also inspired some of the greatest fantasies our time. We hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of the fictitious metals markets and learned a few things about the real ones as well.