Author Archives: Stuart Burns

After over three years of drama on the heels of its historic Brexit referendum, the U.K. officially withdrew from the E.U. at the end of January.

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For now, not much has changed. The U.K. remains in a transitional period vis-a-vis its relationship with the E.U., with previous rules governing their relationship still in place.

The clock is ticking, however, as the parties have until the end of this year to agree to a new trade arrangement, one that could have significant consequences for both sides.

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A recent article by respected Reuters columnist Andy Home reports on the impact of the coronavirus, COVID-19, on the supply-demand balance in China, the world’s largest consumer and producer of aluminum, and the ramifications steps taken to contain the virus could have for the market.

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For the first time in more than a decade, demand in the global aluminum market fell slightly last year as trade wars and slowing consumption from the automotive sector dampened demand.

Even so, China’s massive primary aluminum industry continued to churn out metal and add new capacity.

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If the new coronavirus, COVID-19, has shown anything — apart from the risks of eating certain types of meat — it is the vulnerability of supply chains.

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An Economist article last week explored the impact the virus and the steps taken to manage it are having on global supply chains and, in particular, on those at the end of the chain, including firms like Apple.

The shares of American firms with strong exposure to China have underperformed the S&P 500 index by 5% since early January, when news of the outbreak first broke, the article notes.

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The electric vehicle (EV) market is facing significant headwinds.

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On the one hand, consumer anxiety over EVs’ limited range and extended recharge periods is making the majority reluctant to commit.

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A recent Reuters article suggests China’s domination of the base metals market was marching on relentlessly prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

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The headline, “China’s copper imports and aluminium consumption to drop again in 2020,” suggested otherwise, painting an initial image of a depressed market — but the reality is it is anything but.

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The Financial Times reported the eurozone’s economy is growing at the slowest rate since the bloc’s debt crisis seven years ago, according to data published late last week.

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The Eurozone grew at a quarterly rate of 0.1% in the fourth quarter, its slowest rate of expansion since early 2013.

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On the face of it, there appears to be a disconnect between the state of China’s steel market and the price of seaborne iron ore.

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Aluminum extrusions from China are currently subject to anti-dumping duties in the U.S., Canada, Australia and, for a more unique reason of its own, Vietnam, Aluminium Insider reported.

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But despite repeated complaints from the industry and industry bodies like European Aluminium, the European Union has done no more than require a surveillance license system to report and monitor imports of aluminum into the E.U.

In a move many consider overdue, the European Commission has now opened a probe into whether Chinese exporters of aluminum bars, rods, profiles, tubes and pipes sold them in the E.U. below cost, Bloomberg reported Friday.

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Not surprisingly, the steel sector in China is one of many going through acute uncertainty at the moment over fears the coronavirus spreading from Wuhan is still not under control.

As a result, it is becoming increasingly apparent steel demand is going to be down for some time to come.

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The popular wisdom was this virus would peak in a week or so and a falling rate of infection would encourage relaxation of travel bans and some return to normality.

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As if to underline the more dynamic and entrepreneurial nature of private sector firms, Geely Auto Group in China is set to create what many are describing as China’s first global car maker.

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Part of China’s big three private car manufacturers, along with Great Wall and BYD, Geely is small compared to China’s big, state-backed carmakers, like Shanghai Automotive, Beijing Automotive, Dongfeng Motors, Changan Auto, First Auto Works and Guangzhou Automotive, most of whom also operate joint ventures with Western carmakers like General Motors, Ford, Volkswagen, BMW, Toyota, etc.

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