The Automotive MMI, our sub-index of industrial metals and materials used by the automotive sector, dropped by one point for a June reading of 86. The Automotive MMI has not seen an increase since early this year, when the figure accelerated from a January reading of 82 to 92 in February.
Overall, consumers seemed to pass on auto purchases in May, continuing the slowdown from January-April. Car and light truck sales — checking in at a total of 1.52 million in May — were down for the third month in a row. Automakers reported a 1% drop in sales from the previous year, according to a Reuters report.
While Ford Motor Company’s sales are down by 3.5% in the calendar year to date compared with the same point in 2016, it had a good May, edging out GM and others, according to data from Autodata Corp.
Ford sold 240,250 vehicles in May, a 2.3% increase from its May 2016 total sales.
GM, meanwhile, sold 237,156 vehicles in May 2017, a 1.4% drop from May 2016.
As for Chinese auto sales, those are down, too, despite a strong first quarter. Reuters reported a 2.2% drop in April sales after a 5% rise in March. The decline was the largest in China since August 2015, according to the report.
So how does that related to the metals side of the story?
Before we head into the weekend, let’s revisit some of the stories and analysis here at MetalMiner this week.
Moody’s Downgrade of China: Something to Worry About?
Earlier this week, our Stuart Burns wrote about credit rating agency Moody’s and its downgrade of China’s credit status by one level (from Aa3 to A1). Credit downgrades are handed down all the time — but what do they mean, exactly? And, specifically, what does it mean for the Chinese economy and its growth?
This morning in metal news, the European Union urges the United States to focus the scope of its national security probe — launched by President Donald Trump’s administration in April — into steel imports; nickel prices continue to tumble amid concern about global oversupply; and China’s attempt to tackle its debt could impact metal markets throughout the second half of 2017.
EU Officials Express Concern About US Steel Import Probe
On the heels of President Donald Trump’s first round of overseas visits, there remains uncertainty about the president’s stance on several issues, including whether or not Trump will pull the U.S. out of the 195-member Paris climate accord (the president is expected to make an announcement on that subject this afternoon). In addition, EU officials are concerned about the scope of the Trump administration’s national security probe into U.S. steel imports, Reuters reported.
The probe would have negative effects on both U.S. steel producers and manufacturers which use steel, a written statement from the European Commission to the U.S. Department of Commerce argued. The EU is also hoping the probe will zero in on issues of national security and won’t broadly impact exporters around the world, should the Trump administration decide to adjust steel import policy.
Nickel Continues to Roll Downhill
The price of nickel continues to fall, this time to an 11-month low on Thursday, Reuters reported.
This afternoon in metal news, Chinese imports of scrap metals could be subject to further scrutiny by the government, gold reached a one-month high and GE Additive gives away metal 3-D printers valued at $8 million to more than 400 schools. GE Additive previously committed $10 million to its GE Additive Education Program, which aims to encourage the use of 3-D printing technology in education programs and developing future talent.
China Considers Bans on Scrap Imports
China, the world’s leading buyer of copper scrap, might be reconsidering its import strategy, as Materials Recycling World reported. Speaking at a Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) convention in Hong Kong, Ma Hongchang, BIR’s adviser on Chinese policy and regulatory developments, said it was possible the government could ban imports of certain grades of mixed metal scrap.
While nothing has been set in stone from a regulatory perspective, China will continue to have a need for scrap metals, given the growth of infrastructure projects in the country. However, it will be interesting to note the sources of its import supply — that is, whether there is a shift in imports coming from Europe and the U.S. to other nearby Asian nations.
Amid Political Uncertainty, Investors Go for the Gold
Geopolitical tensions and instabilities have a way of roiling markets and, consequently, making investors uneasy. That hasn’t been the case for gold, which recently hit a one-month high, according to a Reuters report.
As the race for prime minister in the U.K. tightens, and nations like Italy and Germany prepare for elections of their own down the road, many investors have turned to the “safe-haven asset” of gold. Spot gold rose by 0.1 percent, according to the Reuters report, to $1,267.70 per ounce.
“The ongoing political uncertainty in the market is really driving safe-haven buying at the moment,” ANZ analyst Daniel Hynes told Reuters.
GE Additive’s $10M Education Program to Bring 3-D Printers to 400-plus schools
GE Additive recently announced it would be giving metal 3-D printers to more than 400 schools, as part of its education initiative to bring the technology to students, as reported in 3D Printing Industry.
The printers, valued at $8 million, are part of Additive’s effort to give students access to additive technologies and “help accelerate the adoption of advanced manufacturing worldwide,” according to GE Additive’s website.
According to 3D Printing Industry’s report, eight universities will receive a Concept Laser MLAB cusing 100R metal 3-D printer, valued at $250,000 apiece. Although the 2017 application deadline for 3-D printers through the program has passed, educational organizations can apply for 2018 at a later date on the GE Additive website.