Articles in Category: Exports

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Argentina is not exactly Venezuela, but you could be forgiven for shaking your head at the sheer ineptitude of Argentinian politicians who have presided over yet another economic crisis and have been forced to go to the IMF yet again for a $50 billion bailout.

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As Reuters observes, Argentina is struggling to break free from cyclical financial crises that have hit the country every decade over the past 60 years.

The most recent, in 2002, threw millions of middle-class Argentines into poverty and shook investor confidence in the commodities-reliant economy.

Not that the current administration caused the current morass — the fault for that lies with former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

According to the BBC, her government, which was in power from 2007 until 2015, raised public spending, nationalized companies and heavily subsidized many items of daily life, ranging from utilities to football transmissions on television.

Worse, it controlled the exchange rate, which created all sorts of practical problems, such as giving rise to a black market for dollars and heavily distorting prices. The more conservative administration of President Mauricio Macri’s came into power promising fiscal responsibility and to stem the collapse of the newly freed up currency, but has consistently failed to lower inflation, which is the highest amongst G20 nations.

Since coming to power in 2015, Macri’s administration has failed to enact the economic reforms it promised the IMF, most of them aimed at curbing public spending and borrowing. The resulting spiral of inflation and draconian public spending cuts this year means wages are not keeping pace with prices, making most people poorer.

Source: Bloomberg via BBC

The country is facing inflation of over 31% by mid-2018, record unemployment and rapidly growing poverty marked by queues at soup kitchens, as the poor are unable to even feed themselves, which is leading to unrest.

Inflation is expected to end the year at over 40% despite stringent fiscal constraints the government is imposing. The government is following orthodox fiscal policies, partly under pressure from the IMF. Policies are in place to cut its ministries by more than 50% and decrease public spending by 4%. The goal is to advance the fiscal deficit reduction to zero next year, ahead of the earlier target of 2020. Even so, the peso has collapsed as investors have fled, devaluing by 52% just this year. In the last week alone, the currency lost 16% of its value.

So desperate is the situation that President Macri’s government has imposed a tariff on all exports — yes, you read that right, exports, including steel products.

Admitting it was a bad tariff and a desperate measure that ran counter to the normal intent to generate foreign currency through exports, Macri explained it was to avoid semi-finished products flooding out the country with the collapse of the peso. The government is fearful if it goes unchecked, the market will be devoid of raw materials and domestic manufacturing will collapse, adding to already rising unemployment and further dissuading investment.

According to Bloomberg, the tariff varies between primary products and finished products. For primary products, for every $1 exported, a duty of Argentinian Pesos 4 is charged (or about 10% at current exchange rates), while for finished products, for every $1 exported a duty of Pesos 3 is charged.

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It is hard to see a quick turnaround for Argentina; years of austerity and a harsh recession are likely on the table, with ongoing support from the IMF.

Following past real estate deals with the Macri family, President Trump is giving his verbal support to the Argentine president’s efforts, support that may prove vital if the current $50 billion does not prove sufficient to turn the economy around.

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Rare earth exporters in India have lodged protests after the government snatched their rights to send these precious elements abroad.

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Rare-earth metals are a group of 17 elements, which are found in geological deposits. Some of the most abundant metals in the world are neodymium, cerium, and lanthanum.

All rare earths are classified into two groups: light rare earths (LREs), and heavy rare earths (HREs).

Just 20 years earlier, the Government of India (GoI) allowed the private sector into beach sand mining. Now, it issued a notification, wherein the right to export these rare-earth metals have been taken away.

Instead, the GoI has introduced a canalization system.

The primary aim of canalization of exports through Indian Rare Earths (IRE), according to the Financial Express, is to curtail direct private sector export of beach sand minerals and derivatives like ilmenite, rutile and zircon.

Canalizing means putting quantitative restrictions on exports.

But the move has obviously not gone down well with rare earths miners. Miners have said these checks would curtail beach sand mining activities and deprive India of a developing sector.

According to a new research report by Global Market Insights, Inc, the rare earths market size will exceed U.S. $20 billion by 2024. It’s well known that the majority of the global rare earth production capacity is in China. However, China has not shown much inclination of sharing those resources with other nations.

Thus, the focus is on countries like India and Japan — specifically India, which has a sizable reserve.

Driving this sector is the demand for magnets in automobiles, and requirements in defense and energy generation. Electric cars, for example, rely on some of rare-earth metals.

Beach sand minerals and their derivatives find diverse applications in paints and other decorative materials, papers and plastics, and high-tech applications. At present, much of India’s share of domestic production, as well as exports, are done by private sector firms.

The GoI notification said export of beach sand minerals had been brought under the STE and shall be canalized through IRE. Beach sand minerals, permitted anywhere in the export policy, will now be regulated in terms of the new policy. One of the other sources of angst for private firms in the business is that they have already made huge capital investments by way of technology and production facilities.

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According to the Financial Express report, beach sand minerals mining activity commenced in India in 1908. In addition, until 1998, other minerals were restricted only to public sector companies (except for garnet), but just after that the GoI embarked on a path of liberalization that allowed participation by the private sector.

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This morning in metals news, Argentina sets exports tariffs, LME copper drops and China’s biggest aluminum-producing city is getting set to roll out high-end aluminum projects.

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Argentina Slaps Exports with Tariffs

Argentina added export tariffs to all products, including steel, according to S&P Global Platts.

According to the report, the country’s steel exports to the U.S. in the year to date are down 11.9%.

Copper Falls

LME copper reached a nearly two-week low Tuesday, Reuters reported.

However, the metal stabilized, ultimately trading flat on Tuesday, according to the report, while SHFE copper fell 0.4%.

High-End Aluminum

The Chinese city of Binzhou, home to aluminum major China Hongqiao Group, is planning projects to encourage growth in high-end aluminum production, according to a Reuters report citing a local government document.

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One of the projects includes an aluminum alloy plant of 10,000 tons per year, according to the report.

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This morning in metals news, U.S. energy companies haven’t had much luck in the steel tariff exemption request process, iron ore prices bounced back from a one-month low and Mexican steel exports to the U.S. plunged in June.

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U.S. Energy Companies Look for Tariff Exemptions

Per a Reuters report, some U.S. energy companies are not happy that their steel tariff exemptions requests are being denied by the Department of Commerce (DOC).

According to the report, the DOC approved a request by Chevron for an exemption on Japanese steel tubes, but others making similar requests have been denied.

MetalMiner’s Take: Clearly, the DOC does not have the resources to quickly and efficiently evaluate challenges. Speaking at the Steel Market Update steel summit in Atlanta, Nucor CEO John Ferriola reported his firm has objected to 8.2% of the 25,000-plus exclusion requests; only one was overturned by the government.

The tariffs are designed to both improve the trade balance and create jobs, according to Ferriola (not to mention address national security by bringing production back to the U.S.). Speaking to the SMU audience, Ferriola answered a question on imported steel slabs subject to 25% tariffs: “Countries that don’t produce slabs should figure out how to create jobs and build the capability to make slabs. Create the jobs … that’s what 232 investing is all about.”

Ferriola also commented on the impact of tariffs on his customers: “We watch the impact of the price on our customers and their earnings. Our customer’ sales are up, their earnings are up, and their sales are booming. We can see their order entry rate and frankly today when I see how our customers are doing, I don’t get the sense that they are being squeezed today.”

Iron Ore Prices Tick Up

After hitting a one-month low, iron ore prices were up Tuesday, according to Business Insider Australia.

The price of 65% fines jumped 0.5%, according to the report.

MetalMiner’s Take: Iron ore prices are mostly trading sideways this month, in the $65-$70 band.

Chinese iron ore imports rebounded in July. The increase in iron ore imports is being supported by higher Chinese steel prices. Chinese mills are trying to increase profits and steel output.

The recent environmental campaign in China is also boosting iron ore imports versus domestic iron ore, as the imported material has a higher grade. However, Chinese iron ore imports decreased by 1.6% in the first months of 2018 when compared to the same period in 2017.

Iron ore price movements generally correlate better with steel prices in bearish markets. This means steel prices tend to increase in a bearish market if the raw material price increase in that period. In bullish markets, iron ore price movements do not have a big effect on steel prices.

Mexican Steel Exports to U.S. Fall

Mexico’s steel exports to the U.S. fell 23.9% year over year in June, according to an S&P Global Platts report.

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Furthermore, June export totals were down 37.4% compared with the May total.

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On Monday, the U.S. announced an agreement in principle regarding aspects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), albeit in a bilateral sense, as Canada remained on the sidelines of the talks between the U.S. and Mexico.

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“The United States and Mexico have reached a preliminary agreement in principle, subject to finalization and implementation, to update the 24-year-old NAFTA with modern provisions representing a 21st century, high-standard agreement,” the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) said in a release. “The updated agreement will support mutually beneficial trade leading to freer markets, fairer trade, and robust economic growth in North America.”

Talks to modernize the 24-year-old trilateral trade agreement began in August 2017 and underwent numerous rounds, encountering challenges along the way.

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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-related storylines here on MetalMiner:

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This morning in metals news, energy companies are lobbying for exemptions from the U.S. steel tariff, U.S. steel exports dropped in April compared with the previous month, and steel and iron ore prices fell by the greatest amount since March.

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Asking for Exemptions

Several U.S. energy companies are looking to win exemptions from the U.S.’s 25% steel tariff, Reuters reported.

Of the nearly 21,000 exclusion requests received by the U.S. Department of Commerce, more than 500 are related to pipes and related materials, according to the report.

U.S. Steel Exports Down in April

The U.S.’s steel exports fell by 1% in April compared to the previous month, according to American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) data cited by the Times of Northwest Indiana.

The steel export level in April, however, was up 0.5% compared with April 2017.

Steel Prices Drop

Prices of steel and iron ore fell by the greatest amount since March, according to Bloomberg, as trade tensions ratcheted up in the last week. The U.S. announced $50 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports on Friday, and President Donald Trump threatened an additional $200 billion in tariffs.

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Iron ore prices fell to a two-month low, according to the report, while LME nickel, zinc and copper all also fell.

China could be said to be making hay while the sun shines.

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A report in AluminiumInsider quotes China’s General Administration of Customs, saying the country’s total exports last month came to 485,000 metric tons, accounting for the second-highest total in the administration’s record-keeping history.

May’s output beat April’s total of 451,000 metric tons by 7.5% and bested May shipments a year earlier of 430,000 metric tons (a 12.8% increase). Only December 2014 had been higher at 542,700 metric tons.

But suggestions that this is the start of a flood may be premature.

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This morning in metals news, Trump announces $50 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods, China responds to warn retaliatory tariffs are imminent and E.U. members are supportive of retaliatory measures against the U.S.’s Section 232 tariffs.

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Trump Announces $50M in Tariffs on China

In line with media reports earlier this week, President Donald Trump announced Friday that the U.S. will impose $50 million in tariffs on Chinese goods, particularly related to technology, Reuters reported.

China Says Retaliatory Tariffs Coming

On the heels of the U.S. tariff announcement, China says it plans to impose tariffs of the “same scale,” according to a CNBC report.

E.U. Keen on Payback for Steel Tariff

Speaking of retaliation, E.U. nations are ready to retaliate agains the U.S. and its 25% steel tariffs, Reuters reported.

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E.U. countries unanimously voted in support placing import duties of $3.3 billion of U.S. goods.

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This morning in metal news, steel and aluminum exports from China were up in May; the National Retail Federation CEO panned the U.S.’s tariffs; and a White House economic analysis reportedly concludes President Trump’s tariffs will hurt economic growth.

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Exports on the Rise

Despite rising trade tensions, including Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum, China’s export totals of steel and aluminum were both up in May, according to Reuters.

Chinese aluminum exports were at their highest level in 3 1/2 years, according to the report.

NRF CEO Criticizes Tariffs

Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation, was critical of the Trump administration’s trade agenda vis-a-vis tariffs, CNBC reported.

Shay, who spoke positively about the president’s December tax cut, argued the tariffs are counterproductive.

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“It makes no sense to go down this road when we have all this momentum,” Shay told CNBC.

White House Economic Analysis Bearish on Tariffs

According to a report by The New York Times, a White House economic analysis of the impact of Trump’s tariffs concludes they will hurt economic growth.