Author Archives: Fouad Egbaria

Suez Canal

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Before we head into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the week that was and some of the metals storylines here on MetalMiner, including the Suez Canal blockage, the April 2021 MMO, Western European hot rolled coil prices and much more:

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Week of March 29-April 2 (Suez Canal retrospective, HRC in Western Europe, April MMO report and more)

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carbon dioxide clock

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This morning in metals news: miner Rio Tinto joined an effort in Japan promoting decarbonization transparency; the Nikkei Review reported automaker Nissan plans to use cobalt-free electric vehicle batteries by mid-decade; and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson weighed in on the Liberty Steel crisis.

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Rio Tinto joins Green Value Chain Platform Network

Miner Rio Tinto has joined Japan’s Green Value Chain Platform Network, it announced Thursday. The network aims to “lead transparent decarbonization efforts” in the country.

Japan established the network in 2018, Rio Tinto noted.

“We are honoured to be welcomed into the Ministry of Environment’s GVC Network and look forward to engaging on innovative approaches with customers, government and industry to help reduce Japan’s carbon footprint,” Rio Tinto Japan President Bill Horie said.

Rio Tinto said it aims to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Nissan to use cobalt-free batteries

In other sustainability news, automaker Nissan said it plans to use cobalt-free electric vehicles batteries by the mid-2020s, the Nikkei Asia reported.

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infrastructure

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President Joe Biden released details of the so-called American Jobs Plan, which among its stated goals aims to modernize infrastructure, revitalize manufacturing and create what it says will be “millions” of jobs.

The proposal will include an investment of approximately $2 trillion over the next 15 years, the White House said Wednesday.

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Aluminum in infrastructure

On the heels of the announcement, domestic metals associations weighed in on the Biden administration’s wide-ranging proposal.

The Aluminum Association applauded the news in general terms, emphasizing aluminum’s role in infrastructure development.

“We are pleased to see the Biden administration and the Congress focusing on infrastructure investment as the national priority that it is,” Aluminum Association President and CEO Tom Dobbins said. “Aluminum is an essential element to America’s infrastructure future – used widely in the electric grid, solar panels, electric vehicle charging stations and buildings of all kinds. Major investment will also provide a once-in-a-generation opportunity to modernize the nation’s recycling infrastructure, vital to shoring up domestic aluminum supply chains and increasing manufacturing self-sufficiency.”

Dobbins added the Aluminum Association “stands ready to work with” the Biden administration and Congress on “investments that work for America’s vital aluminum manufacturing base.”

AISI supportive, but disagrees with funding

Meanwhile, in its own statement, the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) also praised the administration’s focus on infrastructure.

However, the industry group expressed its disagreement with the funding mechanisms in the proposal.

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American jobs

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This morning in metals news: President Joe Biden unveiled details of the $2 trillion investment toward the American Jobs Plan; meanwhile, J.D. Power and LMC Automotive recently released their automotive sales forecast for March; and, lastly, Ford yesterday announced its first-ever integrated sustainability and financial report.

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Biden reveals details of American Jobs Plan

This week, President Joe Biden unveiled details of his American Jobs Plan, which will include an investment of $2 trillion.

Furthermore, the plan seeks to revitalize the manufacturing sector, improve US infrastructure, and modernize water delivery systems and electrical grids, among other goals.

“The American Jobs Plan is an investment in America that will create millions of good jobs, rebuild our country’s infrastructure, and position the United States to out-compete China,” the White House said. “Public domestic investment as a share of the economy has fallen by more than 40 percent since the 1960s. The American Jobs Plan will invest in America in a way we have not invested since we built the interstate highways and won the Space Race.”

We have covered the various supply chain and shipping issues that have hampered operations over the last year. Part of the Biden plan calls for improvement of US ports, waterways and airports, including $25 billion for airports.

J.D. Power, LMC Automotive release March sales forecast

Automotive intelligence firms J.D. Power and LMC Automotive recently forecast US automotive retail sales in March would finish up 70.7% compared with March 2020. Furthermore, sales would be up 9.2% compared with March 2019.

In addition, the firms forecast new-vehicle retail sales in Q1 2021 would reach 3.16 million units. That figure would mark an increase of 20.5% from Q1 2020 and 4.7% from Q1 2019.

Ford releases first integrated financial, sustainability report

As electrification continues, many automakers are touting steps taken along the way.

This week, Ford Motor Co. announced the release of its first-ever integrated financial and sustainability report.

Furthermore, the automaker also announced new “science-based targets” toward its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.

“The targets – to reduce Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions from operations 76% from 2017, and Scope 3 GHGs from use of the company’s products 50% from 2019, both by 2035 – were recently approved by the Science Based Targets initiative,” Ford said in a release.

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steel

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After dipping slightly the previous week, US steel capacity utilization jumped to 77.6% for the week ending March 27, the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) reported.

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US steel capacity utilization rises

US steel capacity utilization picked up from 77.3% for the week ending March 20.

Meanwhile, steel capacity utilization for the same week in 2020 reached 75.3%.

Production during the week ending March 27 reached 1.76 million net tons. The output total marked an increase of 1.1% year over year and an increase of 0.4% from the previous week.

Meanwhile, for the year to date, production totaled 21.4 million net tons. US steel capacity utilization during that period reached 76.8%. Output during the period is down 5.6% year over year. Furthermore, US steel capacity utilization during the same period in 2020 reached 79.6%.

In addition, production for the week ending March 27, 2021, by region totaled:

  • Northeast: 166,000 net tons
  • Great Lakes: 617,000 net tons
  • Midwest: 189,000
  • Southern: 712,000 net tons
  • Western: 76,000 net tons

Steel price gains

Steel prices remain on the rise.

US hot rolled coil closed Wednesday at $1,310 per short ton, or up 8.8% month over month. Cold rolled coil, meanwhile, $1,490 per short ton, or up 8.36%.

Hot dipped galvanized is up 6.98%, hitting $1,578 per short ton on Wednesday.

ATI strike

In supply news, earlier this week we covered the United Steelworkers union’s announcement of a strike at nine Allegheny Technologies Inc. (ATI) sites.

In a statement, the union cited “unfair labor practices” and said members had not received a wage increase since 2014. In its own statement, ATI expressed disappointment in the move.

On Wednesday, the union released an update on negotiations with the company.

“In addition to the company’s unreasonable and unnecessary contract proposals, we believe ATI
has violated federal labor law and engaged in serious unfair labor practices,” the union said Wednesday. “Management’s conduct has undermined our ability to bargain for the contract we deserve, and their actions are intended to intimidate or coerce us from standing together to fight for a fair contract and to break our solidarity.

“In December 2020, before bargaining began, ATI announced shutdowns impacting workers in Louisville and Waterbury and the #3 Finishing Dept at Brackenridge, yet the company still refuses to grant these workers their shutdown benefits and pensions unless, we ratify their contract, thereby holding our members and their families hostage.”

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Chile

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This morning in metals news: Chile’s INE reported the country’s industrial production, including copper production, fell in February; meanwhile, US automotive sales fell in February; and, lastly, the United States International Trade Commission made duty rulings on imports of silicon metal.

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Chile industrial production falls in February

Chile’s National Statistics Institute (INE) reported the country’s Industrial Production Index fell 3.4% in February.

Furthermore, the Mining Production Index fell by 6.2%. The decline came largely as a result of a drop in copper extraction and processing in February, the INE reported.

US vehicle sales fell in February

US vehicle sales fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 16.1 million units in February, according to US Bureau of Economic Analysis data.

The rate fell from 17.1 million units in January.

The February 2020 rate reached 17.2 million units before plunging to 11.8 million and 9.1 million units the next two months.

USITC rules on silicon metal

The USITC recently determined imports of silicon metal from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kazakhstan, and Iceland benefited from illegal subsidization and were sold in the US at less than fair value.

The Department of Commerce will issue a countervailing duty order on imports of the metal from Kazakhstan. In addition, it will impose an anti-dumping duty order on imports of the metal from Iceland and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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strike

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The United Steelworkers union Monday announced a strike at nine Allegheny Technologies Inc. (ATI) facilities, citing what it calls “unfair labor practices.”

The ATI strike, which began at 7 a.m. EDT Monday, marked the first at ATI since 1994, according to media reports.

In addition, USW spokesperson Tony Montana told MetalMiner the strike involves workers at plants in:
  • Pennsylvania in Brackenridge, Latrobe, Natrona Heights, Vandergrift and Washington
  • Lockport, New York
  • Louisville, Ohio
  • New Bedford, Massachusetts
  • Waterbury, Connecticut

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USW announces ATI strike

“We are willing to meet with management all day, every day, but ATI needs to engage with us to resolve the outstanding issues,” USW International Vice President David McCall said in a prepared statement. “We will continue to bargain in good faith, and we strongly urge ATI to do start doing the same.

“Through generations of hard work and dedication, Steelworkers at ATI have earned and deserve the security of a union contract. We cannot allow the company to use the global pandemic as an excuse to reverse decades of collective bargaining progress.”

USW said negotiations with ATI began in January 2021. The union claimed the company “sought major economic and contract language concessions” from its roughly 1,300 union members. Furthermore, the union said members have not had a wage increase since 2014.

Meanwhile, the union had announced its intention to strike Friday, March 26.

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steel tubes

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This morning in metals news: Nucor Corporation announced plans to build a new tube mill in Kentucky; meanwhile, US retail gasoline prices have been on the rise; and, lastly, unemployment rates in February fell in 23 states.

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Nucor to build new tube mill

Nucor recently announced plans to build a new tube mill in Kentucky near its Gallatin sheet mill.

The steelmaker said it will invest $164 million into the project, which will be operational in 2023.

“The new tube mill will have the capacity to produce approximately 250,000 tons of hollow structural section (HSS) steel tubing, mechanical steel tubing and galvanized solar torque tube,” Nucor said. “The Kentucky location puts the new tube mill near expanding solar markets in the U.S. and the largest consuming regions for HSS steel tubing.”

Retail gas prices on the rise

To the chagrin of motorists heading to the pump, retail gas prices have continued to rise.

US retail gasoline prices averaged $2.85 per gallon as of Monday, the Energy Information Administration reported.

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strike

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This morning in metals news: workers went on strike at the Bradken plant in Atchison, Kansas, last week; Liberty Steel has asked for a massive government bailout in the UK; and, lastly, the copper price retraced last week.

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Workers go on strike at Bradken plant

Workers at the Bradken steel manufacturing plant in Atchison, Kansas, went on strike last week, local news source KQ2 reported.

According to the report, 50-60 workers walked off the job and onto the picket line last week.

The plant uses electric arc AOD technology and has annual capacity of 36,500 tons, according to the company’s website. The plant produces: locomotive rail and transit components and assemblies; mining, construction, industrial and military castings; and general steel castings.

Liberty Steel asks for bailout

On the heels of its financial crisis after the collapse of Greensill Capital, Liberty Steel is looking to the UK government for a bailout.

The steelmaker is asking for a bailout package of £170 million, the BBC reported.

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US steel imports in February — and through the first two months of the year — are down compared with 2020, the Census Bureau reported.

imports

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US steel imports in February down 22% from previous month

US steel imports reached 1.71 million metric tons in February, according to preliminary data from the Census Bureau.

Imports fell from 2.20 million metric tons in January.

Meanwhile, February 2021 imports were up from the 1.37 million metric tons imported in February 2020.

Furthermore, imports were down over 7% in the year to date compared with the first two months of 2020.

According to the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), finished steel import market share reached an estimated 18% in February. Meanwhile, through the first two months of the year, import market share reached 17%.

In addition, after reaching 35% in 2017, steel import penetration fell to 26% by 2019, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Tin plate, cold rolled sheet imports surge

February saw a surge in imports of tin plate and cold rolled sheets, among other steel products.

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