This Morning in Metals: U.S. steel sector starts 2020 with 82% capacity utilization

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This morning in metals news, the U.S. steel sector posted a capacity utilization rate of 82.0% to start the new year, copper prices made gains Tuesday and the Port Talbot steelworks’ losses continue to trouble Tata Steel.

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Steel capacity utilization kicks off 2020 at 82.0%

We’re only a week into the new year, but steel production data is already rolling in.

U.S. steel production for the year through Jan. 4 totaled 1.9 million tons at a capacity utilization rate of 82.0%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI).

The production total marks a 2.0% year-over-year increase from the same period in 2018, when capacity utilization checked in at 79.4%.

Copper posts gains

Copper prices increased for a second straight session Tuesday, Reuters reported.

LME three-month copper gained 0.6% to $6,175 per ton, according to the report.

Citing the South China Morning Post, the report noted a Chinese trade delegation is scheduled to visit the U.S. next week for the signing of the recently agreed “phase one” trade deal.

Port Talbot struggles continue

The U.K.’s largest steel plant, Port Talbot, has continued to post losses, raising doubt about its future amid comments by the chairman of Tata Sons Group.

The Port Talbot steel plant, owned by India’s Tata Steel, posted pre-tax losses of £371 million last year, according to the report.

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As a result, Natarajan Chandrasekaran, chairman of Tata Sons Group, said in an interview Sunday that Tata “can’t have a situation where India keeps funding losses.”

The comments come amid a challenging time for steel production in the U.K., as British Steel’s future has not yet been settled.

British Steel, the U.K.’s second-largest steelmaker, was forced into liquidation in May 2019. After talks with an arm of Turkey’s military pension fund fizzled, China’s Jingye Group emerged as the favorite to take over the struggling steelmaker late last year.

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