Author Archives: Fouad Egbaria

Global crude steel production fell by 1.4% year over year in August, the World Steel Association reported.

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Global crude steel production falls, including in China

Chinese steel factory

fanjianhua/Adobe Stock

Global crude steel production fell by 1.4% to 156.8 million metric tons in August, the World Steel Association reported earlier this month.

The total marked a 2.7% decline from 161.1 million metric tons in July.

Meanwhile, top steel producer China saw a decline in output for the third consecutive month. China produced 83.2 million metric tons in August, down 5.3% from 86.8 million metric tons.

Furthermore, China’s output fell from 95.9 million metric tons in August 2020. Beijing has implemented steel productions curbs, which have helped send iron ore prices downward. In addition, China has pushed forward with consolidation of its massive steel sector.

For the year through August, however, China’s production totaled 733.0 million metric tons, up 5.3% year over year.

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The Department of Commerce has initiated a Section 232 investigation covering neodymium-iron-boron magnets, the department announced Sept. 24.

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Section 232 investigation to cover neodymium magnets

neodymium magnet

nikolayn/Adobe Stock

The Trump administration used Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to investigate whether steel and aluminum imports are having a harmful impact on national security. Ultimately, as metals buyers know, the former president opted to slap tariffs on steel and aluminum of 25% and 10%, respectively.

Meanwhile, neodymium magnets go into a wide variety of applications, including wind turbines, electric vehicles and cordless tools, among many others. In addition, as the DOC noted, neodymium magnets also have military applications in fighter aircraft and missile guidance systems.

“The Department of Commerce is committed to securing our supply chains to protect our national security, economic security, and technological leadership,” Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said. “Consistent with President Biden’s directive to strengthen our supply chains and encourage investments to shore up our domestic production, the Department initiated a Section 232 investigation on imports of NdFeB permanent magnets to determine whether U.S. reliance on imports for this critical product is a threat to our national security.”

The DOC asked interested parties to submit written comments, data, analyses, or other information to the Bureau of Industry and Security by Nov. 12, 2021.

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This morning in metals news: U.S. steel capacity utilization reached 85.2% for the week ending Sept. 25; meanwhile, most planned U.S. battery storage additions in the next few years will be paired with solar; and, lastly, unemployment rates in August declined in nearly all metropolitan areas.

Steel prices have been rising for over a year, leaving many to wonder: when will they peak and start to come back down? In the next installment of the MetalMiner webinar series at 11:30 a.m. CDT, Thursday, Sept. 30, MetalMiner experts will overview the steel market and delve into contracting mechanisms, buying guidance and more. Visit the MetalMiner Events page for more information and to register to attend. 

Steel capacity utilization rises to 85.2%

hot rolled steel

niteenrk/Adobe Stock

U.S. steel capacity utilization rose to 85.2% for the week ending Sept. 25, the American Iron and Steel Institute reported.

The rate increased from 84.9% the previous week.

Meanwhile, steel production for the week reached 1.88 million net tons, up 0.3% from the previous week. For the year to date, steel output reached 69.54 million net tons at a capacity utilization rate of 81.0%. The total marked an increase of 20.2% year over year.

Battery storage additions to be paired with solar

Battery storage additions in the U.S. over the next three years will mostly be paired with solar, the Energy Information Administration reported.

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This morning in metals news: Intel on Friday broke ground on two new chip factories in Arizona; meanwhile, a spill Sunday at from a U.S. Steel plant in Northwest Indiana led to the closure of beaches in the area; and, lastly, the aluminum price has taken a breather during the second half of the month but remains elevated.

Each month, MetalMiner hosts a webinar on a specific metals topic. Explore the upcoming webinars and sign up for each on the MetalMiner Events page.

Intel breaks ground on semiconductor factories

semiconductor and automobile

Maxim_Kazmin/Adobe Stock

The automotive sector continues to struggle with the global shortage of semiconductors.

As such, Intel is looking to fill some of the gap in the U.S.

Last Friday, Intel broke ground on two new semiconductor factories in Arizona.

“Advanced domestic chipmaking capacity and capabilities are critical for the sake of both economic and national security,” Intel said. “The United States has lost ground in semiconductor manufacturing and is at risk of falling farther behind.”

Furthermore, the two news fabs will be fully operational in 2024.

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This morning in metals news: Rio Tinto said it had reached an agreement with the union representing workers at its BC Works; the Census Bureau reported new orders for manufactured durable goods increased in August; and, lastly, oil prices rose last week.

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Rio Tinto, BC Works union reach deal

Rio Tinto sign

Argus/Adobe Stock

After a work stoppage at its BC Works, Rio Tinto announced it had reached an agreement in principle with the union representing workers there.

“Both parties are satisfied that the proposed Agreement will provide a foundation for respect in the workplace and underpin a competitive and sustainable future for BC Works, benefitting employees and their families, the company, and the broader community,” Rio Tinto said.

“In addition to the CLA, the parties have also reached an agreement in principle for a Memorandum of Understanding on a new way of working together and on a return to work protocol.”

About 900 workers went on strike at the plant in late July. The two parties returned to the negotiating table late last month.

BC Works has capacity of 329,000 tons of aluminum per year.

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U.S. steel imports totaled an estimated 2.5 million metric tons in August, the Census Bureau reported Friday, as U.S. steel prices continue to post gains.

The August total marked a decline from 2.7 million metric tons in July.

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Steel imports slow in August but remain up in year to date

steelmaking in an EAF

nikitos77/Adobe Stock

Despite the decline in U.S. steel imports from July to August, imports in the year to date remain up from last year.

Through July, U.S. steel imports totaled 16.2 million metric tons, up from 13.7 million metric tons for the same period in 2020.

Imports of blooms, billets and slabs fell from 902,920 metric tons in July to 602,114 metric tons in August. Imports of oil country goods fell from 162,509 metric tons to 106,650 metric tons.

Meanwhile, imports of cold-rolled sheets fell from 157,524 metric tons to 147,330 metric tons.

Wire rod imports also fell from 101,768 metric tons to 79,203 metric tons.

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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:

Cut-to-length adders. Width and gauge adders. Coatings. Feel confident in knowing what you should be paying for metal with MetalMiner should-cost models.

Week of Sept. 20-24 (China’s property market and steel prices, global copper mine production and much more)

Chinese steel factory

fanjianhua/Adobe Stock

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This morning in metals news: Mercedes-Benz, Stellantis and TotalEnergies will each take a 33% stake in Automotive Cells Company; meanwhile, the Semiconductor Industry Association offered its reaction to the Biden administration’s recent meeting on the semiconductor supply chain; and, lastly, the Energy Information Administration expects a rise in natural gas consumption in 2021 and 2022.

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Automakers team up to scale battery project

electric car battery

Electric car lithium battery pack. (Nischaporn/ Adobe Stock)

Mercedes-Benz is collaborating with Stellantis and TotalEnergies to scale up production of the Automotive Cells Company.

Each partner will have a 33% stake in the battery cells manufacturer.

The project will cost more than €7 billion ($8.2 billion), Mercedes-Benz estimated.

“On its path toward an all-electric future, Mercedes-Benz is taking an equity stake in European battery cell manufacturer Automotive Cells Company (ACC) to scale up development and production of next-generation high-performance battery cells and modules,” Mercedes-Benz said. “As announced in July 2021, Mercedes-Benz will be ready to go fully electric by the end of the decade – wherever market conditions allow.”

To reach that goal, the German automaker said it will need battery production capacity of more than 200 Gigawatt hours.

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U.S. housing starts overall picked up in August, the Census Bureau reported this month.

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Housing starts overall rise, but single-family starts drop

housing starts

ungvar/Adobe Stock

Privately owned housing starts rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,615,000. The August rate jumped by 3.9% from the previous month.

The August 2021 rate increased by 17.4% compared with August 2020.

However, the rate for single-family housing starts reached 1,076,000, down 2.8% from the previous month.

Permits rise 6%

Meanwhile, privately owned housing units authorized by building permits in August rose by 6.0% in July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,728,000 in August. The August rate increased by 13.5% from August 2020.

Single‐family authorizations rose 0.6% to 1,054,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more reached a rate of 632,000.

Residential construction spending

U.S. residential construction spending dipped from March-May 2020, marking the first dip since a generally down 2018.

Since last May, however, spending has enjoyed an uninterrupted rise.

According to the Census Bureau, residential construction spending reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $782.1 billion in July. The rate jumped from $777.9 billion in June and $618.2 billion in July 2020.

Meanwhile, lumber, for which prices skyrocketed to all-time highs earlier this year, has cooled.

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This morning in metals news: Alcoa said it plans to restart its Alumar aluminum smelter in Brazil; meanwhile, the Energy Information Administration forecasts hydropower generation will fall by 14% this year; and, lastly, European automakers are looking to bypass China in their rare earths supply chains.

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

Alcoa to restart Alumar smelter

Alcoa logo

Casimiro/Adobe Stock

Alcoa this week announced plans to restart its Alumar aluminum smelter in Brazil.

The smelter has been fully curtailed since 2015. The facility has annual capacity of 268,000 metric tons.

“The process to restart the idle capacity will begin immediately,” Alcoa said. “The first molten metal is expected in the second quarter of 2022, and the full 268,000 mtpy of capacity is expected to be operational in the fourth quarter of 2022. By 2024, the Alumar smelter will be powered with 100 percent renewable energy.”

Hydropower hit by drought

Speaking of renewable energy, the EIA forecasts hydropower generation to decline by 14% this year.

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