Author Archives: Fouad Egbaria

This morning in metals news: U.S. steel capacity utilization dipped to 84.8% last week; meanwhile, General Motors signed a memorandum of understanding with GE Renewable Energy to develop a rare earths supply chain; and, lastly, the United States Trade Representative commented on potential targeted exclusions for the Section 301 tariffs on Chinese goods implemented during the Trump administration.

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.

US steel capacity utilization at 84.8%

steelmaking in an EAF

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U.S. steel capacity utilization fell to 84.8% for the week ending Oct. 2, the American Iron and Steel Institute reported.

The rate dipped from 85.2% the previous week. Meanwhile, steel output last week totaled 1.87 million net tons, AISI reported. The total marked a 0.4% decline from the previous week but a 21.6% year-over-year increase.

Production in the year to date reached 71.4 million net tons, up 20.3% year over year.

GM, GE Renewable Energy sign MoU

General Motors and GM Renewable Energy have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) through which they will work to develop a supply chain for rare earths and other materials needed for electric vehicles and renewable energy.

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The Construction Monthly Metals Index (MMI) fell for this month’s value, as U.S. construction spending came in virtually unchanged from the previous month.

October 2021 Construction MMI chart

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US construction spending

housing starts

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U.S. construction spending in August reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,584.1 billion, up minimally from the revised July estimate of $1,584.0 billion, the Census Bureau reported.

Meanwhile, the August rate increased by 8.9% from August 2020.

During the first eight months of 2021, construction spending totaled $1,034.5 billion. The year-to-date total marked a 7.0% year-over-year increase.

Private construction spending reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,242.2 billion, or down 0.1% from July. Residential construction rose 0.4% to $786.6 billion. Nonresidential construction fell 1.0% to $455.6 billion in August.

Public construction spending reached a rate of $341.9 billion, up 0.5%. Educational construction rose 1.1% to $79.8 billion. Highway construction rose 1.6% to $98.3 billion.

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This morning in metals news: Cleveland-Cliffs and workers at its Rockport Works have agreed on a new three-year labor deal; the U.S. goods and services deficit increased in August; and, lastly, Rio Tinto reached a new collective labor agreement with workers at its BC Works.

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Cleveland-Cliffs, Rockport workers reach three-year labor deal

Cleveland-Cliffs logo

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Cleveland-Cliffs and the United Auto Workers union, which represents workers at the Rockport Works operation in Indiana, agreed to a new three-year labor deal.

The new contract went into effect Oct. 1, 2021. Furthermore, the new deal includes 350 workers at the Rockport facility.

According to information on the company’s website, the facility has an 80-inch wide galvanizing line, which it says is the widest in the U.S.

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This morning in metals news: new orders for manufactured goods ticked up by 1.2% in August; meanwhile, Nucor affiliates announced two acquisitions; and, lastly, the WTI crude oil price inched upward last week.

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.

New orders for manufactured goods rise

automotive production

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New orders for manufactured goods rose by 1.2% in August, the Census Bureau reported today.

New orders for the month reached $515.7 billion. The August jump marked the 15th monthly increase in the last 16 months.

Meanwhile, new orders for manufactured durable goods increased by 1.8% in August.

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Just as global steel producers have slowed in the past few months, global aluminum production has also dropped and aluminum prices recently touched a 13-year high.

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Global aluminum production drops

aluminum ingot stacked for export

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Amid surging aluminum prices, global aluminum production dropped in August, the International Aluminum Institute reported this month.

Global production totaled an estimated 5.70 million metric tons, down from 5.73 million metric tons the previous month.

However, output increased from the estimated 5.52 million metric tons in August 2020.

China, the top producer of aluminum in the world, churned out an estimated 3.30 million metric tons in August. That marked a decline from 3.33 million metric tons.

Meanwhile, production within the Gulf Cooperation Council rose from 496,000 metric tons to 504,000 metric tons in August.

Asian production ex-China held flat at 384,000 metric tons.

North American production fell 5.4% from 333,000 metric tons to 315,000 metric tons.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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