The Renewables MMI rose seven points in August, reaching a reading of 84.
Meanwhile, in the topsy-turvy world of grain-oriented electrical steel (GOES), the U.S. GOES price jumped 7.3%.
Of the nine metals in the sub-index, only one (U.S. steel plate) posted a drop in price as of Sept. 1. Chinese silicon, cobalt and neodymium all also posted price gains.
Charged Up for Cobalt
Last month, we wrote about cobalt, which is in high demand for its application in electric vehicle batteries. Cobalt is mined predominantly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has been shaken by violence and political instability this year.
The instability there has seen production in the DRC decrease this year, yielding significant price increases in the metal. As we wrote last month, the instability of cobalt (not to mention growing ethical concerns vis-a-vis child labor at mines) has some battery makers looking to adjust their metal formulas, in some cases suggesting the use of more nickel, instead.
According to a Reuters report, however, cobalt has been boosted by projections touting a rise in purchases of electric vehicles. According to the report, UBS forecasted electric vehicles will account for 3.1% of global car sales in 2021 and 13.7% in 2025, up from 1% this year.
In addition, cobalt listings have skyrocketed, the report says. As of the end of July, 100 companies that explore or mine for cobalt were listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and TSX Venture Exchange, up from fewer than 30 in 2015, according to SNL Financial.
In short, despite issues of supply volatility — and, thus, material cost — cobalt’s profile continues to rise in tandem with the rise of electric vehicles.
What About U.S. Steel Plate?
Like the rest of the U.S. steel industry, steel plate producers are anxiously awaiting the Trump administration’s determination in its Section 232 investigation of steel imports.
The investigation, announced in April, has a January deadline. The investigation picked up steam earlier on in the summer, but has seemingly been put on the backburner for the time being. As such, initial optimism from U.S. steel producers regarding potentially imminent trade action stemming from the investigation began to wane.
In a letter to the Trump administration last week, the American Line Pipe Producers Association (ALPPA) urged the president to take action, also mentioning steel plate in the process.
“The ALPPA strongly supports the imposition of tariffs to address this crisis,” wrote Timothy Brightbill, counsel to the ALPPA. “With tariffs in place, we could quickly return to full capacity, adding hundreds of direct jobs in addition to upstream and downstream jobs as well.
“However, in order for tariffs to be effective for our industry, steel pipe must be included in any tariff covering steel coil and plate, as failure to do so would be devastating for domestic large diameter line pipe producers and workers.”
Actual Metal Prices and Trends
Korean steel plate rose 3.0% to $533.61/metric ton. Japanese steel plate rose 0.2% to $726.42/mt. Chinese steel plate jumped 12.2% to $655.45/mt.
Meanwhile, U.S. steel plate dropped 4.6% to $719/mt. U.S. GOES rose 7.3% to $2,765/mt.
Chinese cobalt jumped 2.0% to $61,145.19/mt.