Articles in Category: Ferrous Metals

Only 20 days ago we reported that steel imports were set to rise. And that’s not a minute too soon, given that the price of steel has increased by 49-65% since the start of the year! According to Platts, US steel imports in April increased 14.5% over March and were 3.4% higher than in April 2007. Although the steel lobby might have you believe otherwise, steel imports are great for US manufacturers because they provide much needed competition in the marketplace and will help bring some semblance of normalcy back to the market place. Mind you, we aren’t going to see a big price drop off — but we’ve seen the rate of price increases drop heavily between May orders for June deliveries and June orders for July deliveries. Read more

Have Steel Prices Peaked?

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Ferrous Metals

If not, then the peak is possibly in sight, according to Purchasing.com. Drawing on comments made by CIBC Capital Markets, the article states that recent price increases have been more than can be warranted by raw material price increases alone — something long suspected by distributors and consumers alike — and levels now being charged are unsustainable.

Feedback from our own contacts in the market suggest that some major mills are completing June orders early and have spot capacity opportunities available, both of which are an about-face from just a couple of months ago, when requests for additional capacity were flatly declined.

We would be hesitant to call mid summer as the peak, but the availability of more capacity coupled with the room for some price adjustments could be the ingredients needed to bring some sense to the market.

–Stuart Burns

With so much focus on China these days, it is a little-know fact that Russia, in 5th position, is one of the largest steel exporters in the world. Over half of the total is in ingots and semis such as HR coil and billets. Russia exported some 30 million tons in 2007, making them a major supplier to Western Europe and the US, according to steelonthenet. However, recent moves by the Russian government in response to rapidly rising domestic prices suggests this figure may dramatically decrease in the second half of this year if proposed export taxes are imposed. Read more

It sounds illogical. A farm bill that provides “government-sponsored insurance, counter-cyclical assistance, disaster aid and legacy payments tied to nothing, the five-year $307 billion bill lavishes cash on wealthy farm households, the main restriction on collecting it being a means test that applies to couples making more than $1.5m a year,” according to an article entitled: A Harvest of Disgrace, published by the Economist, can not possibly relate to anyone in the metals industry. Or can it? Read more

It’s an oft-cited fact that the steel price and level of demand is driven by a burgeoning need from China — yet in a recent conference speech, Xiong Bilin of the Chinese NDRC is reported to have said that China has 500 million tons of steel producing capacity and supply exceeds demand. In the same speech, the NDRC went on to explain the reason the authorities have been blocking the involvement of foreign steel companies in the building of new facilities in China: to try to head off a massive excess of production capacity. Read more

Buying a new car could become more expensive in the approaching months. Last week, automaker Honda Motor Co. announced that higher steel and other raw material costs could cause the company to increase the price of their vehicles. Honda, along with Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co.,  shared expectations of an operating profit drop in the immediate future. Toyota Motor Corp. admitted on Sunday that they are “near a price increase accord with steel suppliers to offset the rising cost of raw materials.” According to Bloomberg, “To help offset rising costs, Toyota plans to boost the price of some U.S. models this month by 0.7 percent on average. Nissan in April raised the price of its Versa compact car and Pathfinder sport-utility vehicle. Honda on May 12 said it is considering raising prices in North America, Japan and other markets.”   Read more

Today, I thought I would continue my earlier  piece on managing metal pricing volatility. You can find that article  here.

Have you ever received the advice of a consultant who suggested that one way to mitigate metals cost increases is to develop a contract pegged to an index? Well, truthfully, we’ve given out that advice, so let’s see what these indexes actually cover and who can take advantage of them.

The most famous of the metals exchanges (in which daily price information is published) is the London Metal Exchange. There, a company can participate in the largest metals futures market for a range of base metals including steel, nickel, copper, aluminum, zinc, lead and tin. Most recently, the exchange added steel (billets specifically), which we have previously reported on here and here. The last article also references the hot rolled coil steel futures market with Nymex. These futures markets, like the LME and Comex, are viable if you are buying primary metals, but rarely correlate well for semi finished metals. Read more

As we have reported previously, nickel prices have dropped  in half from their peak last year, following a combination of grade substitution and massive stock draw downs combining to hit production. When production drops, one automatically assumes demand must have dropped — but apparently demand has remained reasonably steady as stocks have dwindled, and is now forecast to grow this year, according to the Paris based International Stainless Steel Forum ISSF. During 2007, stainless production in the Americas and Europe/Africa declined by almost 12% and 13.3% respectively but is forecast to grow by 3.7% and 4.4% this year. You will not be surprised to hear the largest producer and the greatest growth is forecast to be from China, not least because there are several new plants in the commissioning stage that will shortly be coming on stream creating a 7.3% increase in capacity.  

It’s hard to  agree with the ISSF’s bullish growth forecasts, however,  since North America and Europe have both proved to be surprisingly resilient in the face of weakness in the housing and automotive markets.  I would expect any improvement in demand to be met by the new production capacity coming on stream and prices to hold reasonably steady through 2008. For the US, much will depend on the fortunes of the US Dollar. Continued weakness may prevent consumers from enjoying the benefits of wider import supply options and (as with steel this last year) seeing domestic producers take advantage of a tightening supply market.

–Stuart Burns

Have you ever started a Google search for something and then ended up finding something else more interesting? Unfortunately, this happens to me quite often. Whenever I have a few extra minutes, I head over to sites like Mineweb and read through the headlines. Somewhere in those headlines, I believe there was a story on Ternium — and don’t ask me to find the story because I can’t, nor can I remember why I clicked on the headline. Anyhow… whatever it was, it made me click over to their corporate website only to catch the following in Spanish: “Ternium proporciona informacià ³n actualizada respecto del proceso de nacionalizacià ³n de Sidor.”

Hmm…. nacionalizacion? I recognized the company, Sidor, from my old trading days. But this headline could only mean one thing…and I knew it wasn’t good. And there it was in plain text (only this time I converted it to English)  — on Tuesday, Ternium, a conglomerate of steel companies operating in the Americas, announced that Chavez’ Decree Law 6058, “became effective today upon its publication on Venezuela’s Official Gazette.” The decree orders Sidor and its subsidiaries to be transformed into state owned enterprises.” Furthermore, the government will own at least 60% of their share capital. Read more

China has come under a lot of adverse  press during the last year or two over its investments in mining resources around the world, particularly in Africa. The suggestion is that China is trying to corner the world market on raw materials, depriving the rest of the world from access. What is the reality, and are these accusations justified? Read more

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