This Morning in Metals: Trump Signs Executive Order Imposing Sanctions on Iran’s Metals Sector

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This morning in metals news, President Donald Trump added sanctions on Iran targeting its metals industry, Rio Tinto is shipping more aluminum to Europe and ArcelorMittal reported its Q1 2019 financial results.

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Trump Targets Iran’s Metals Sector

A year on after withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, President Donald Trump took aim at Iran’s largest source of non-oil export revenue: metals.

On Wednesday, the president signed an executive order imposing sanctions on Iran’s metals industry, including exports of iron, steel, aluminum and copper.

Rio Tinto Supplying More Aluminum to Europe

According to Rio Tinto CEO Jean-Sebastien Jacques, the miner has begun to ship greater volumes of aluminum to the European market amid flagging U.S. demand, Reuters reported.

The CEO cited the ongoing U.S.-China trade conflict as a factor contributing to the decline in U.S. demand.

Although negotiations between the U.S. and China continued this week, tensions escalated as President Donald Trump has threatened to increase the rate on a previously announced $200 billion in tariffs from 10% to 25%, setting a Friday deadline for the increase. The tariffs were originally imposed in September, with the tariff rate increase scheduled for Jan. 1 before the two countries reached an agreement on a negotiating timetable.

ArcelorMittal Reports Q1 Results

Steelmaker ArcelorMittal reported EBITDA of $1.7 billion in Q1 2019, down from $2.0 billion in Q4 2018.

Steel shipments were up 7.9% from Q4 2018 “primarily due to higher steel shipments in Europe (+14.4%) due in part to the acquisition of ArcelorMittal Italia (following its consolidation from November 1, 2018) and NAFTA (+2.8%), offset in part by lower steel shipments in Brazil (-5.7%).”

“Our first quarter results reflect the challenging operating environment the industry has faced in recent months,” ArcelorMittal Chairman and CEO Lakshmi Mittal said. “Profitability has been impacted by lower steel pricing due to weaker economic activity and continued global overcapacity, as well as rising raw material costs as a result of supply-side developments in Brazil.”

Mittal also addressed high import levels, even after Europe’s approval of steel safeguard measures earlier this year.

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“We continue to face a challenge from high levels of imports, particularly in Europe, where safeguard measures introduced by the European Commission have not been fully effective,” Mittal said. “Although we are somewhat encouraged by the firmer price environment in China, this is not being reflected in Europe where in order to adapt to the current market environment we have recently announced annualized production cuts of three million tonnes in our flat steel operations. It is important there is a level playing field to address unfair competition, and this includes a green border adjustment to ensure that imports into Europe face the same carbon costs as producers in Europe.”

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