Our Automotive MMI held steady for the third month in a row at 68.
Considering that other metals prices are still falling, it’s quite a feat that automotive has been able to even hold steady for this long. Prices of stainless, aluminum and copper are all down in their individual MMI sub-indexes this month and our Raw Steels MMI was flat.
Low prices simply have not been enough to entice larger raw material purchases by automakers. U.S. auto sales fell slightly in January because of the East Coast snowstorm, but analysts say end user demand remains strong and buyers will likely head back into dealerships this month. Sales fell less than 1% to 1.1 million, according to Autodata Corp.
Low gas prices and even lower interest rates are continuing to fuel sales and most automakers are optimistic that they can break last year’s sales record by the end of the year. The problem facing metal producers is that there is still so much oversupply out there that even the market hunger for new cars, trucks and SUVs can be sated several times over by the stockpiles that currently exist.
Producers Targeting Automotive
Automotive is still a coveted market for most producers. Nucor Corp. recently opened an office in Detroit as part of a push to increase its sales to the auto industry by 40% to 50% over the next two years. Charlotte-based Nucor saw its sales to the automotive industry increase 20% last year — 1.4 million tons of steel products — over 2014’s numbers.
Alcoa, Inc. is even coming closer to realizing its previously announced split by naming new directors for its new automotive and aerospace company, all of them with experience in the fields.
The fundamental strength of the sector will likely still be there when stockpiles finally dwindle and we see prices rise. Many are predicting that rebound for later this year, but there’s very good reason to believe 2016 could be another low-price year as there is still no definitive deal to reduce oil production and many miners and metal producers are not curtailing production.
Automotive Metal Prices
The US Midwest Hot-Rolled Coil Futures spot price jumped from $364 a short ton in January to $401 a ton this month, a 10.1% jump. Korean pig iron fell from $438.06 a metric ton in January to $409.53 per mt this month. Korean steel scrap fell from $37.43 per mt last month to $36.40 per mt this month, a drop of 2.75%.