This morning in metals news: pre-Labor Day retail gasoline prices are at their highest level in seven years; meanwhile, payroll employment rose by 235,000 in August; and, lastly, Norilsk Nickel has signed an agreement to build a liquefied natural gas icebreaker.
However, retail sales declined by 39.6% on a year-over-year basis. Total sales fell by 33.1% year over year.
Ford truck and SUV sales fell by 35.7% and 30.4%, respectively.
The automaker also touted a record August for electric vehicle sales.
“Electrified vehicle sales were up 67.3 percent over last year for a total of 8,756 vehicles,” Ford said. “Electrified vehicles are bringing in new customers to Ford at a rate that is more than 8 points higher than Ford’s overall conquest rate.”
Meanwhile, General Motors, which reports on a quarterly basis, in July reported Q2 sales rose by 40%. In a letter to shareholders last month, CEO Mary Barra underlined the automaker’s effort toward achieving zero emissions. In addition, she said GM aims to develop “a full EV portfolio that doesn’t depend on partial solutions like hybrids and ‘electrified’ ICE vehicles.”
Honda, meanwhile, reported August sales fell by 15.6%, citing “industrywide parts supply issues.”
This morning in metals news: new orders for manufactured goods posted an increase in July from the previous month; meanwhile, U.S. productivity rose by 2.1% in Q2 2021; and, lastly, the U.S. goods and services trade deficit fell from June to July.
This morning in metals news: U.S. construction spending ticked up by 0.3% in July, the Census Bureau reported; meanwhile, unemployment rates declined in 388 of 389 metropolitan areas of the U.S. in July compared with July 2020; and, lastly, shale natural gas production from the Appalachian Basin hit record levels in the first half of 2021.
Better time your metal market purchases with the MetalMiner Insights platform. Request a demo.
While much of the world still depends on fossil fuels, demand for battery metals is surging.
The MetalMiner Best Practice Library offers a wealth of knowledge and tips to help buyers stay on top of metals markets and buying strategies.
Battery metal demand on the rise
South African platinum and palladium producer Sibanye-Stillwater said increasing demand for battery metals is already impacting supply.
“While not yet having material impact on internal combustion engine vehicle sales, increasing demand for battery metals to meet requirements for electric vehicle production is already starting to have substantial implications for battery metal supply,” the South African firm said.
In short, the world will need to expand supply in order to meet that rising demand.
Today’s supply and investment plans for many critical minerals “fall well short” of what will be needed, the IEA said.
With demand set to increase many times over in the years ahead, there will need to be additional investment.
“The resultant increased demand for battery metals to support a prolonged expansion of the global battery electric vehicle (BEV) fleet over the next two to three decades, is going to require commensurate increase in the supply of battery metals,” Sibanye-Stillwater added. “Primary expansion of the scale needed to meet BEV growth projected by some market commentators, will be challenging.”
Steps toward the future
South Africa accounts for 70% of global production of platinum, used in catalytic converters to curb harmful emissions from automotive exhaust.
The South African firm touted its various efforts in the battery metals space. The firm acquired an initial stake in the Keliber lithium project in Finland. Furthermore, it made a proposal for the acquisition of the Sandouville nickel refinery in France.
The total marked an increase from 297,740 ounces in H1 2020. However, output declined from the 305,327 ounces in H2 2020.
Meanwhile, 4E PGM (i.e., platinum, palladium, rhodium and gold) output in South Africa totaled 894,165 ounces in H1 2021. In H1 2020, 4E PGM output from the firm’s South Africa operations totaled 630,912 ounces.
This morning in metals news: U.S. steel capacity utilization dipped to 84.9% last week; North American Stainless said it is maintaining fuel surcharge; and, lastly, RUSAL earlier this month reported its interim H1 2021 results.
Stay up to date on MetalMiner with weekly updates – without the sales pitch. Sign up now.
Steel capacity utilization dips to 84.9%
U.S. steel capacity utilization dipped to 84.9% for the week ending Aug. 28, the American Iron and Steel Institute reported.
Steel output during the week reached 1.87 million net tons. That weekly total marked a decline of 0.2% from the previous week. However, output increased by 26.9% on a year-over-year basis.
For the year to date, steel production reached 62.0 million net tons. Capacity utilization during that period reached 80.5%. During the same period in 2020, the rate reached just 66.6%, with output at 51.7 million net tons.
NAS updates fuel surcharge
North American Stainless (NAS) today said it will maintain its fuel surcharge of 27% for stainless flat and long products.
Earlier this month, the European Steel Association (EUROFER) said apparent steel consumption in the EU28 rose by 3.6% in Q4 2020. In Q1 2021, apparent steel consumption rose by 0.9%.
“Although the general economic recovery in the EU appears to be uneven and exposed to risks, the recovery in steel-using industries and in steel demand should continue through 2021,”EUORFER Director General Axel Eggert said. “This is being driven by the stronger-than-expected recovery of industrial sectors, whose output is recovering the losses experienced during the pandemic.”
This morning in metals news: Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana on Sunday; copper prices have bounced back in the final third of August; and, lastly, Alro Steel has acquired metal distributor and service center Metal Stock.
Hurricane Ida barreled down on the Gulf Coast over the weekend, making landfall in Louisiana on Sunday.
On Friday, the Energy Information Administration summarized the potential energy impacts of the Category 4 storm.
“Typically, demand for transportation fuels increases rapidly in the days before the arrival of a hurricane in the affected areas as consumers purchase fuel to prepare for evacuation,” the EIA noted. “This rapid, unexpected increase in demand puts pressure on local inventories because the rest of the supply chain has not had time to respond. Louisiana has declared a state of emergency ahead of Hurricane Ida’s landfall.”
Furthermore, in terms of trade, the Port of New Orleans is the fourth-largest port in the U.S. The port authorities said New Orleans Terminal and Ports America for containerized operations would be closed Monday, Aug. 30.
Copper bounces back
Despite supply concerns at mines around the world, particularly in South America, the copper price lost steam in the first half of August.
This morning in metals news: Rio Tinto this week returning to the negotiating table with the union representing workers at the BC Works aluminum smelter; meanwhile, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported multifactor productivity fell in 61 of the 84 manufacturing industries in 2019; and, lastly, miner BHP earlier this month reported its financial results for the year ending June 30, 2021.
Rio Tinto and Unifor Local 231 have resumed negotiations at the firm’s BC Works aluminum smelter.
In late July, approximately 900 workers at the plant in Kitimat, British Columbia, went on strike, the CBC reported.
“After working until 2:30 am last night, we were expecting some big moves from the Company this morning,” the union said in a July 24 bulletin posted to its website. “Unfortunately, the Company came back to the table with absolutely nothing. Instead, they offered that we engage in joint mediation through the Labour Board.”
This week, Rio Tinto said the sides had returned to the bargaining table.
“Starting 24 August, we have returned to the bargaining table to resume negotiations,” Rio Tinto said in a statement this week. “Our conversations will tackle the outstanding issues. If successful, Rio Tinto and Unifor Local 2301 will develop a plan to return to work that will guide what needs to be done from the time an agreement is reached until we ramp up to full production with all pots back in operation.”
According to information on the company’s website, the plant produces 329 kt of aluminum annually. Aluminum from the plant goes primarily to customers in Japan, South Korea and the United States.