Author Archives: Fouad Egbaria

The Renewables Monthly Metals Index (MMI) rose by 2.9% for this month’s reading.

January 2022 Renewables MMI chart

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EIA: electricity generation from renewables to rise in 2022, 2023

The Energy Information Administration forecast the U.S. share of electricity generation from renewables will rise in 2022 and 2023.

“Our forecast for the natural gas share as a generation fuel declines primarily as a result of increased generation from new renewable energy generating capacity,” the EIA reported in its Short-Term Energy Outlook released Jan. 6.

The EIA forecast solar capacity growing at a faster rate than wind. Furthermore, the EIA forecast an uptick in hydropower.

“The extreme drought conditions in the West may moderate somewhat in the next year, and we forecast that the share of U.S. generation from hydropower will rise from 6% in 2021 to 7% in 2022 and 2023,” the EIA reported.

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The Global Precious Monthly Metals Index (MMI) rose by 4.1% for this month’s reading.

January 2022 Global Precious MMI chart

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Gold prices make gains to close 2021

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Gold prices picked up steam throughout the final month of 2021.

The U.S. gold spot price opened December at $1,774 per troy ounce, according to MetalMiner Insights data (MetalMiner Insights added a precious metals suite last year). The price rose to $1,818 per troy ounce to close the year.

Since then, the price has continued to rise, reaching $1,825 per troy ounce last week.

Meanwhile, the U.S. dollar, which typically has an inverse relationship with gold, moved mostly sideways in December. After opening December at just over 96, the U.S. dollar index fell marginally to just under 96.

Treasury yield rates rise in December

Elsewhere, U.S. Treasury yield curve rates picked up in December.

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The Rare Earths Monthly Metals Index (MMI) rose by 1.7% for this month’s reading.

January 2022 Rare Earths MMI chart

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China consolidates trio of rare earths units

As Beijing has sought to control its domestic metals production in the form of state-directed company consolidation, it has also done so in the rare earths sector.

According to the state-run Xinhua, China established the China Rare Earth Group Co., Ltd. late last month in the country’s Jiangxi province.

Aluminum Corporation of China, China Minmetals Corporation and Ganzhou Rare Earth Group Co., Ltd. established the new company jointly.

Companies aim to develop REE-making technology

Last month, Energy Fuels Inc., the U.S.’s top producer of uranium, announced a memorandum of understanding with Nanoscale Powders LLC to develop novel technology for the production of rare earth element metals.

“We believe this Technology, which was initially developed by NSP, and will be advanced by the Company and NSP working together, has the potential to revolutionize the rare earth metal making industry by reducing costs of production, reducing energy consumption, and significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Energy Fuels said in its announcement. “Producing REE metals and alloys is a key step in a fully integrated REE supply chain, after production of separated REE oxides and before the manufacture of neodymium iron boron magnets used in electric vehicles, wind generation and other clean energy and advanced technologies.”

Among its other operations, Energy Fuels produces mixed rare earth element carbonate. It also recovers uranium from natural monazite sands.

“The Company is also moving quickly toward producing REE Oxides at the Mill using proven solvent extraction technologies,” the firm added. “The Mill has over 40 years of experience producing uranium and vanadium oxides using SX technology.”

Companies, industry groups weigh in on Section 232 neodymium magnet probe

Last September, the Department of Commerce announced the initiation of a Section 232 investigation covering neodymium magnets.

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The Automotive Monthly Metals Index (MMI) fell by 3.4% for this month’s reading, as auto sales continued to slump in the face of ongoing supply and inventory constraints.

January 2022 Automotive MMI chart

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US auto sales

In the U.S. market, General Motors reported Q4 2021 sales of 440,745 vehicles, or down 43% year over year.

Despite the decline, the automaker indicated the semiconductor supply shortage improved in the fourth quarter.

“GM entered the quarter with record low inventories; however, the company’s fourth-quarter production and wholesale deliveries were up significantly from the third quarter as semiconductor supply conditions improved,” GM said in a release.

However, Toyota outsold GM in the U.S. in 2021, marking the first time GM did not hold the top sales spot since 1931, according to Reuters.

Toyota sold 2,332,262 vehicles in 2021 compared to 2,218,228 vehicles for GM.

Meanwhile, Ford reported its total December sales fell 17.1% to 173,740 vehicles. Truck sales fell 15.5%. SUV sales dropped by 11.1%.

However, while still a relatively small part of the whole, Ford’s electrified vehicle sales jumped by 121.1% to 12,284.

In that vein, Ford announced a commitment to further expand its EV production. The automaker said it plans to nearly double production of the F-150 Lightning pickup to 150,000 vehicles per year at its Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Michigan.

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This morning in metals news: aluminum prices have surged this week; U.S. nonfarm payroll employment rose by 199,000 in December; and, lastly, electricity prices surged throughout 2021, in large part on the back of rising natural gas prices.

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Aluminum prices surge

aluminum price

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Aluminum prices are on the ascent once again.

The LME three-month aluminum price peaked back in October, reaching as high as $3,200 per metric ton, according to MetalMiner Insights data.

After falling to just over $2,500 per metric ton in early November, aluminum prices traded largely sideways for the next month.

Since mid-December, however, aluminum prices have surged. LME three-month aluminum closed Wednesday at $2,923 per metric ton, its highest in over two months. The price is up 13.05% month over month.

US adds 199K jobs

U.S. nonfarm payroll employment rose by 199,000 in December, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

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The Construction Monthly Metals Index (MMI) rose by 3.3% for this month’s reading, as construction spending picked up in November.

January 2022 Construction MMI chart

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U.S. construction spending reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,625.9 billion in November, or up 0.4% from October, the Census Bureau reported.

Furthermore, the November rate marked a 9.3% year-over-year increase.

Meanwhile, through the first 11 months of 2021, construction spending reached $1,463.2 billion, or up 7.9% year over year.

Spending on private construction reached a rate of $1,273.6 billion in November, or up 0.6% from October. Public construction spending reached $353.2 billion, or down 0.2%.

“Private nonresidential spending appears to be on a solid upswing, with five consecutive months of growth, but public outlays for construction remain erratic,” said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America, in a release. “The public side isn’t likely to post steady gains until funds from the new infrastructure law become available and turn into actual projects.”

ABI growth slows

The Architecture Billings Index, a leading indicator of nonresidential construction activity in the U.S., reached 51.0 for November. Any reading greater than 50 indicates billings growth.

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This morning in metals news: LME copper prices have ticked up; the U.S. monthly trade deficit increased from October to November; and, lastly, WTI crude prices made some gains this week.

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Copper prices rise

copper mine in Peru

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Copper prices had trended firmly in between MetalMiner support and resistance levels for much of Q4 2021.

However, copper prices have showed signs of upward momentum.

The LME three-month copper price closed Tuesday at $9,759 per metric ton. The price had increased 2.94% month over month, MetalMiner Insights data indicate.

US trade deficit reaches $80.2M in November

The U.S. trade deficit reached $80.2 billion in November, the Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis reported.

The deficit increased from $67.2 billion in October.

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This morning in metals news: U.S. steel prices have continued to decline; OPEC will continue its output increase schedule in February 2022; and, lastly, Alcoa at the end of last year announced plans to curtail production at its San Ciprián aluminum smelter in Spain.

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US steel prices continue to cool

steel production

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Although U.S. steel prices remain elevated, prices have cooled over the last few months, according to MetalMiner Insights data.

U.S. hot rolled coil, for example, closed last week at $1,587 per short ton, or down 8.3% month over month. Cold rolled coil, meanwhile, fell 3.2% to $2,019 per short ton.

Hot dipped galvanized is down 2.6% to $2,050 per short ton.

However, steel plate, critical for the energy sector, has bucked the general trend, particularly amid rising oil prices in Q4 2021. U.S. steel plate is up 1.6% month over month to $1,856 per short ton.

OPEC to maintain output increases

OPEC today announced it plans to continue previously agreed upon monthly output increases of 0.4 million barrels per day for February 2022.

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This morning in metals news: MetalMiner’s January 2022 Monthly Metal Outlook (MMO) report is now available; steel capacity utilization for the week ending Jan. 1, 2022, fell to 80.6%; and, lastly, U.S. job openings declined in November.

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January 2022 MMO report

MetalMiner has kicked off the new year with its latest Monthly Metal Outlook (MMO) forecast report, available only to subscribers.

For more information, those interested can visit the MMO landing page.

Will the steel price cooldown continue? Will stainless buyers find any relief? How are surging energy prices impacting metal producers around the world?

Find all of the above and much more in this month’s forecast report.

Steel capacity utilization dips to 80.6%

U.S. steel capacity utilization for the week ending Jan. 1, 2022, fell to 80.6%, the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) reported.

Steel production during the week totaled 1.79 million tons, AISI reported. The total marked a 0.9% week-over-week decline but 9.5% jump year over year.

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This morning in metals news: energy costs surged in 2021; U.S. steel imports picked up in November; and, lastly, aluminum prices rose during the second half of December.

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Energy costs rise in 2021

wind power and solar power installations generation

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Energy costs surged in 2021, putting the squeeze on residential consumers and industrial users alike (including metal producers).

According to the Energy Information Administration, energy prices used in the S&P Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (GSCI) finished 2021 up by 59% from the first trading day of the year.

“Price increases were largely driven by increased demand from the initial phase of global economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” the EIA reported. “By comparison, most other commodity indexes included in the GSCI increased by about 20%. The precious metals index was the only one to decline. The energy index of the GSCI increased more than twice as much as the industrial metals index on a percentage basis during 2021, the next highest commodity index group price change.”

Steel imports rise in November

U.S. steel imports rose to an estimated 2.8 million metric tons in November, the Census Bureau reported, up from 2.5 million metric tons.

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