Articles Published in 2021

As our colleague Fouad Egbaria noted this week, rising power costs in Europe, almost wholly down to the cost of natural gas, resulted in reduced output at Europe’s largest aluminum smelter, Aluminium Dunkerque Industries France. Losses there ballooned to €20 million ($22 million) during November, as natural gas prices quadrupled this year.

aluminum ingot

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Most aluminum smelters operate on long-term power contracts. However, spot prices do impact costs for many mills, either with contracts linked to spot prices or when contracts come up for periodic adjustment when the prevailing spot price comes into play.

So, it is hardly surprising that the Dunkerque smelter is but the tip of the power crunch-induced iceberg.

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Alcoa announces production halt in Spain

In a separate post, Bloomberg reported Alcoa Corp. is set to halt primary aluminum production at its plant in Spain, Europe’s second-largest aluminium plant, for two years, depriving the European market of valuable supplies at a time of near-record demand. Bloomberg reports Alcoa’s advice that the smelter will continue to supply strategic clients in the pharmaceutical and food industries by remelting aluminum, while maximizing billet production of 65,000 tons per year and producing more than 25,000 tons of aluminum slab, but no primary smelting of virgin ingot.

Nor are the aforementioned smelters alone in announcing closures.

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This morning in metals news: copper prices have moved sideways to close 2021; meanwhile, the U.S. construction sector added jobs in November; and, finally, Northvolt said it had produced the first lithium-ion battery cell at its gigafactory in Sweden.

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Copper prices trend sideways

copper mine

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Copper prices have consolidated and trended sideways to close the year.

The LME three-month price surged to nearly $10,300 per metric ton level in October, according to MetalMiner Insights data. The price proceeded to slide to close that month and has since trended sideways.

LME three-month copper closed Tuesday at $9,620 per metric ton, or up 0.1% month over month.

Construction employment rises

Construction employment picked up in November in a majority of U.S. metro areas, the Associated General Contractors of America reported.

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This morning in metals news: nickel prices have consolidated in December; North American Stainless announced a reduction in its fuel surcharge; and, lastly, the Energy Information Administration reported U.S. liquefied natural gas exports reached a record high in the first half of 2021.

Are you under pressure to generate stainless steel cost savings? Make sure you are following these five best practices

Nickel prices trend sideways to close the year

nickel price

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The nickel price surged around Thanksgiving, rising to just over $21,000 per metric ton (a 2021 high).

However, the LME three-month nickel price has since cooled.

Nickel closed last week at $20,125 per metric ton, according to MetalMiner Insights data. The price is down 1.5% month over month.

NAS announces fuel surcharge reduction

Speaking of nickel — a majority of which goes into stainless steel production — North American Stainless announced a reduction in its fuel surcharge for stainless flat and long products.

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This morning in metals news: aluminum prices have rallied to close the year; Rio Tinto is acquiring a lithium mining project; and, lastly, the American Iron and Steel Institute commented on the president’s proclamation this week adjusting steel imports.

See why technical analysis is a superior forecasting methodology over fundamental analysis and why it matters for your aluminum buy.

Aluminum prices jump at the end of year

aluminum price

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Aluminum prices have rallied at the end of this year after previously falling off the October peak.

LME three-month aluminum closed last week at $2,841 per metric ton, according to MetalMiner Insights data. The price is up 5.8% month over month.

The LME price had surged to $3,200 in October before crashing to nearly $2,500 per metric ton. The price then stabilized until the last two weeks, when it jumped to its current level.

Supply concerns at the end of the year have supported the aluminum price. According to a Bloomberg report, the Dunkerque smelter, Europe’s largest aluminum smelter, has reduced output in recent weeks in response to rising power costs.

Rio Tinto to acquire lithium project

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This morning in metals news: steel prices continue to cool heading toward the year’s end, MetalMiner Insights data indicate; meanwhile, global crude steel production continued to decline in November; and, finally, the U.S. exported more petroleum and crude oil products than it imported in the first half of 2021.

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Steel prices cool to close the year

steel shipment

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U.S. steel prices remain elevated compared with historical levels.

However, steel prices have begun to cool over the last couple of months in 2021, MetalMiner Insights data indicate.

U.S. cold rolled coil closed last week at $2,053 per short ton, or down 2.6% month over month. However, the price remains well above the December 2019 price of just over $1,018 per short ton.

Meanwhile, U.S. hot rolled coil is down 5.7% month over month to $1,690 per short ton. The price is up from the December 2019 price of around $910 per short ton.

Global crude steel production declines

Global crude steel production fell by 9.9% year over year in November, the World Steel Association reported.

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Continuing our review of 2021 — we previously recapped the most-viewed carbon steel, aluminum and stainless steel articles of the year — today we’ll take a look at the copper and copper price stories of the year.

copper stored in warehouse

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Most-viewed copper stories of the year on MetalMiner

  1. Copper MMI: Copper demand likely to remain strong well into 2021
  2. Copper price rises as the metal’s bull story continues

  3. Copper price eases, but for how long?

  4. Copper prices to see out 2021 at lower levels — but higher prices coming in meantime

  5. Copper MMI: Traders take profits after copper price surges to 10-year high

  6. Copper prices continue to surge — is the market in danger of overheating?

  7. Copper MMI: Copper price cools in second half of May after reaching all-time high

  8. Copper MMI: Tight copper market sees high prices

  9. Copper MMI: Copper price soars to record high amid tightness, dollar’s slide

  10. What do China’s surging copper imports tell us about the economy for 2021?

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One of the world’s largest steelmakers, ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel, will invest ₹1 trillion (approx. U.S. $13 billion) to put up a 24 million ton per annum (MTPA) integrated greenfield steel facility in India’s eastern province of Odisha, India Today reported.

The project will generate 16,000 direct employment opportunities and other related indirect employment jobs through ancillary and downstream industries and services, as per a statement released by the Odisha government.

See why technical analysis is a superior forecasting methodology over fundamental analysis and why it matters for your steel buy.

Largest project in the country

India

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The new plant will be India’s largest project in the manufacturing sector, the government said. Several international equipment manufacturers will be stakeholders in this project, likely to be finished in seven years.

The project at Kendrapara in Odisha will eventually make various grades of steel with its “green” steelmaking technology. In addition, it would also have cement capacity of 18.75 MTPA.

When completed, the steel and cement facilities would both be India’s largest single location greenfield projects.

AM/NS has also acquired two iron ore mines in Odisha by winning bids in auctions. ArcelorMittal has a 60% stake in AM/NS India. Meanwhile, Japan’s Nippon Steel holds the rest.

To avoid any delay in implementation of the project, the provincial government will form a committee to monitor time-bound clearances for logistics infrastructure and utilities required for the project.

ArcelorMittal will also develop a downstream industry park to promote micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises and help import substitution. A large number of ancillary manufacturing firms are expected to set up units in the region to support the steel plant.

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Continuing our review of 2021 — we previously recapped the most-viewed carbon steel and aluminum articles of the year — today we’ll take a look at stainless steel.

As MetalMiner analyst Nichole Bastin noted earlier this month, nickel prices surged to a seven-year high in November. More than two-thirds of global nickel production goes toward stainless steel output.

After peaking in late November, nickel prices retraced and consolidated, reaching $19,700 per metric ton last week.

Meanwhile, earlier this year, nickel prices plunged on the heels of nickel supply news from China’s Tsingshan Holding Group. The LME three-month nickel price plunged from around $19,700 in late February to $16,000 per metric ton in early March.

However, buyers continue to face shortages of stainless steel. According to MEPS International Inc., a U.K.-based steel market analysis firm, U.S. stainless steel production is forecast to rise by 16% this year.

Even so, shortages will likely continue into next year.

“Shortages of stainless steel, particularly cold rolled coil, are likely to be a feature of the domestic market in the short term,” MEPS said in a Dec. 1 report.

Are you under pressure to generate stainless steel cost savings? Make sure you are following these five best practices

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As we continue our review of MetalMiner coverage in 2021, today we’ll take a look back at the top aluminum and aluminum price stories of the year.

Previously, we reviewed the top carbon steel stories of the year.

aluminum ingot stacked for export

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Like other metals, aluminum prices enjoyed a bullish run over the past year. The LME three-month price peaked in late October 2021 at $3,200 per metric ton.

Since then, prices have cooled, falling to nearly $2,500 per metric ton before ticking back up and stabilizing throughout November and December.

With that, let’s take a look back at the most-viewed MetalMiner aluminum stories of the year.

Are you under pressure to generate aluminum cost savings? Make sure you are following these five best practices.

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It seems perverse to say that COVID could come to the rescue of the European energy market.

But the reality is the market is in a precarious state. Restrictions hindering businesses and industries’ power consumption could alleviate the energy crunch by reducing power use.

At the height of the 2020 lockdowns, power demand fell by as much is 20% in parts of Europe. Reports earlier this year of sky-high natural gas costs and low natural gas inventories have faded in recent weeks as other issues have hit the headlines.

However, the chronic lack of reserves remains a critical issue. It has been a factor in recent price rises, which have been compounded by related factors.

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Electricity price surge

E.U. flag

Andrey Kuzmin/Adobe Stack

Bloomberg reports prices soared to new records last week because of the impact of unexpected nuclear outages in France and worryingly low stockpiles of natural gas across the continent.

Meanwhile, on Friday natural gas prices plunged as Russia decided to supply the market at the 11th hour. Prices remain at dizzyingly high levels and are super sensitized to the slightest suggestion demand could rise due to a cold snap or further supply disruption.

Metal buyers will recall earlier this year metal prices rose as zinc smelters were forced to close due to power shortages.

Imagine how much more severe that could be in the middle of a prolonged mid-winter cold snap.

Authorities could be forced to make choices between rationing industry and keep the heat on for vulnerable domestic consumers.

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